STILL MIDNIGHT - Denise Mina
According to the famous names quoted on the back of STILL MIDNIGHT, Denise Mina is the crown princess of crime, past winner of the John Creasey Memorial Prize for her first crime novel GARNETHILL. She certainly is a writer that deserves a wide fan base, as she is undoubtedly one of the great writers of the nuanced central character.
STILL MIDNIGHT introduces one such new character - DS Alex Morrow. Morrow is prickly, raised by a single mother suffering from chronic depression, there but for the grace she's somehow kept herself out of trouble. She's somebody who the hierarchy think can't be trusted - she shoots from the hip too often, offends people, loses her temper, has a mouth on her and is simply not able to not use it, despite the need for politics and tact. What the hierarchy don't seem to realise is that she's way harder on herself than they could ever be. But she's badly rattled when she's not given responsibility for the sort of case that Detectives dream about. She would have been the perfect officer - a home invasion and the kidnapping of an elderly man - has happened right on her childhood stomping ground. She's knows a lot of the criminals in that area, she still has contacts, yet she somehow finds herself reporting to DS Bannerman - would-be surfer dude, political player, bosses mate. Morrow does what she does best, setting out pretty much on her own, doling out the snarling and insults as she proceeds, she rides roughshod over anyone who gets in the way. All the while struggling with the problems in her personal life.
The interesting thing about STILL MIDNIGHT is that there's a lot of ground in here that it seems frequent readers of crime fiction will have travelled before. Difficult central police characters; unthinking / unsupportive hierarchy; family problems; racism; troubled youth; lone wolves. Put these elements in the hands of a writer with the skill of Mina however, add a villain with an almost whimsical view of the world; a cock-up that puts the villains in a nothing to lose scenario and you have something that's edgy, involving and really really good.
Fans of Mina's GARNETHILL trilogy will find something vaguely familiar in STILL MIDNIGHT. There's something all too real in all of Mina's characters that might make you squirm just a little bit! Sure Alex and Maureen come from different sides of the law, but they are both flawed, complicated and frequently annoying characters who seem somehow familiar and extremely sympathetic. Add to that strong procedural elements, a great sense of place and pace, and STILL MIDNIGHT is a terrific book - let's hope it's the start of a new series.
It's the case that could make DS Alex Morrow's career, it would make any cop salivate. A home invaded in the dead of night, deep in the heart of the cosy suburbs, a hard working family at the heart of it and a vulnerable old man taken hostage. It's high profile: a black-and-white case and it shouldn't be too hard to solve...
The attackers were slovenly. The two strangers who forced their way into the warm comfortable home demanded millions the family didn't have and shouted for a man nobody had hear of. It had to be a mistake, and a bad one at that.