"The Field of Blood" by Denise Mina is a book I have been waiting to read for ages, as I adored her "Garnethill" trilogy and "Sanctum". But it is a bit of a mish-mash of too many intersecting themes: young aspiring 1980s journalist in sexist and union-dominated Scottish newspaper; local murder based on the Jamie Bulger case (notorious UK murder in which two boys killed a toddler); flashback story of (vaguely true) story of Glasgow criminal wrongly framed by security services; stifling Catholic impoverished family life and values; young first love. Themes of family and social ostracism are explored. At the same time the print is very big and margins very wide.
I was confused by all these threads so that for the first 100 pages or so I confess I thought the book was set in Ireland (main character called Paddy, big Catholic v Protestant local politics) even though people kept referring to Barlinnie jail and the Scottish Daily News. I also found the journalists and editors too many and sketchy to gel into characters I could remember from one scene to the next (not helped by all the jumping around between plots and time).
Once I struggled to page 200 I was into my stride and raced through the rest of the book. For me, the only part of it that really worked was the murder mystery: who really killed the baby. The angle of Paddy, an 18-year-old "copy boy", tenaciously overcoming sexist and racist prejudice to get her story was an inventive, if slight, one. However, the identity and motivation of the murderer were immediately obvious to a seasoned crime-fiction reader like me.
Mina can write well but also relapses into cliche too often. Chapters end like this: "….not knowing that JT and Farquharson were discussing a development that…..would tear her cosy life apart for ever." (Is this a "young adult" book, in fact, I found myself wondering a few times?) I was also struck that although Paddy has this burning desire to be a journalist, she never writes a word — I would say her desire was more to find out the "real" story than to write about it, on this evidence.
The Field of Blood is the start of a series about "Paddy Meehan, Glasgow’s youngest investigative journalist". Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham and Michael Connelly provide superb blurb endorsements (but only Billingham’s could definitely be said to apply to this particular book). If Mina can bring some focus to the next book she could be on to something, but so far not a patch on the Garnethill trilogy.
If you like crime fiction and suspense, I think you’d like this.
I’ve added the book/website to my crime fiction resource on Connotea at:
http://www.connotea.org/user/Detective. You can sort by the tags down the left hand side.
Thanks for the book info, I will put it on my Amazon list. Looks good.