STILL MIDNIGHT by Denise Mina
“Years ago, a well-meaning training officer had told her never to question a superiorâ€™s decision, forget fair, just do the job ignore the politics and donâ€™t take it home.”
Review by Guy Savage (JUL 5, 2010)
Scottish crime novel Still Midnight from author Denise Mina explores the levels of prejudice which taint the investigation of a non-textbook kidnapping case. When Glasgow based detective Alex Morrow first arrives at the home of some hard-working Ugandan immigrants to investigate the crime, it looks as though the crooks hit the wrong house. The kidnappers snatched elderly shopkeeper Aamir Anwar from his family and left demanding two million pounds, saying this was â€śfucking payback. For Afghanistan.â€ť
Morrow immediately senses some irregularities about the crime. Three generations of the Anwars live squashed into a modest home, and the Anwarsâ€™ neighbourhood dingy shop–the sole source of their income–is a hardly a big-moneymaker. On top of this, the kidnappers are amateurs, accidentally shooting one of the Anwars during the crime. Unfortunately, Morrow isnâ€™t in charge of the case; sheâ€™s insultingly placed under the unimaginative supervision of D.S. Grant Bannerman.
The kidnapping becomes even more complicated as the ransom is repeated along with the usual threats. Morrow has instinctive feelings about the case, but sheâ€™s shut out of decisions and assigned to trivial tasks by Bannerman. Morrow battles prejudice from her fellow detectives even as she witnesses prejudice against the Anwar family. Although the Anwars are hard-working people, what has happened to their children? Billal is a traditional Muslim, but youngest son Omar is a budding capitalist. And then thereâ€™s the Anwar daughter, Aleesha, a beauty who flouts Muslim standards and seems fully adapted as a Glaswegian. The kidnapping raises some intriguing questions: do the Anwars have terrorist connections? Where would a family like the Anwars get two million pounds? Do the kidnappers know something about the familyâ€™s source of wealth that is vital to the investigation?
As a fan of Scottish crime fiction, I was interested to try Denise Minaâ€™s novel. Still Midnight is at its strongest when creating scenes between the bungling crooks: Eddie, Pat and Malkie. Eddie, whoâ€™s reeling from multiple blows to his personal life and to his damaged ego, overcompensates by acting like some third rate James Bond. Pat, Eddieâ€™s best (only) friend is involved in the kidnapping mainly to rescue Eddie when the situation demands it. Junkie Malkie could credibly be described as the most intelligent and rational of the three. These men make pathetic criminals and could even be vaguely amusing, but the fact they are armed alters the picture dramatically. Instead of just being bungling losers, weapons turn them into unpredictable, dangerous, and edgy kidnappers.
The scenes which involve Aamir Anwar and his kidnappers emphasize the victimâ€™s terror and the crooksâ€™ incompetence. Aamir is treated with a range of violence by the three kidnappers, and itâ€™s clear that this will end badly. Heâ€™s taken to a squalid house pending payment of the ransom. The home is so filthy, that it even makes the junkie queasy:
â€śThe kitchen looked even worse in the weak morning light. The window above the sink was broken, a triangle of glass missing from the bottom corner, the rest of it documenting every splash of dirty water that had ever hit it, a thick layer of gray dots emanating from behind the mixer tap. Beyond the lace of dirt the very tip of the Lexusâ€™s silver bonnet shone in the sun.
The wall of bin bags blocking the passage to the back door were not just leaking sticky mess on the floor, the ones on the bottom were stuck in a pool of white.â€ť
The three crooks react to the filth with a range of disgust. For Pat, a trip to the living room reveals: â€śThereâ€™s a shit with mold on it in there.â€ť I loved that line for its spontaneity.
On the other hand thereâ€™s a line about Morrow as she sits in her car: â€śHer bum was numb.â€ť I wasnâ€™t impressed with that sentence. And itâ€™s in the treatment of Morrow that the book is its weakest.
While there were a few details about Morrowâ€™s professional and private life, this character remains fuzzy, and lacks a strong fictional presence. This makes Morrow an uninteresting subject. The personalities of some fictional detectives leap off the pages (and their personal lives are at least as interesting as the crimes under investigation), but Morrow was poorly defined. Perhaps Still Midnight isnâ€™t Minaâ€™s best. Iâ€™d read glowing reviews of this authorâ€™s other novels, and while Still Midnight came to life when the story focuses on the criminals, the tale stagnates and was only mediocre when it came to the police work.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 55 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (March 22, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Denise Mina|
|EXTRAS:||Reading Guide and Excerpt|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:|
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