Written by Denise Mina — Last month, Denise Mina picked up the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award at the Crime Writing Festival held in Harrogate. This was for The End of the Wasp Season, and fans of the author must have high hopes for her latest book, Gods and Beasts.
Just a few days before Christmas, a line of last-minute customers snakes around a suburban post office. But when a gunman jumps the queue, tragedy follows. A grandfather buying stamps with his little grandson is gunned down in a seemingly random attack, which signals a sea-change in the life of enigmatic, tattoo-covered Martin Pavel as he lies on the post office floor with the rest of the customer and witnesses it all.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, a charity fundraising dinner is in full swing, with well-regarded local politician Kenny Gallagher sitting in a place of honour at the top table. He’s a man who has been beyond reproach for many years – but are his past sexual indiscretions about to catch up with him?
Across the city, two police officers are ordered to pull over the car of a known drug dealer and take a look at the call records on his mobile phone. A simple enough task, until the man they approach opens his boot, shows them its contents, and makes them an offer they find extremely hard to refuse.
On the face of it, these are three completely unrelated stories – but beneath the surface, tiny tendrils intertwine to tie them together in a well thought-out plot that is both multi-layered and tightly-knit.
Gods and Beasts is set in Glasgow, and the city is as much a part of this book’s narrative as the myriad characters it contains. It is a city close to the heart of the author, and it’s evident that she loves the place, regardless of the many faults she exposes as the tale progresses. It is a tribute to Denise Mina’s skill as a writer that she makes a complex story such easy reading. Characterisations are spot on and the reader is captured from page one and held in the story’s grip right to the last full stop.
On the face of it, the novel’s title could be seen as focusing on the fight between the good guys and the baddies. In truth, it is much, much more complicated than that – as can be seen from the journey of the book’s central character, DS Alex Morrow. She’s just back after the birth of twins and is called on to head the investigation into the post office murder. But everyone she encounters seems to be hiding something. Can she call upon her skills as a police officer to sort out the truth from the maelstrom of lies, and work out who is on the side of the law?
Previously, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin have cornered the market in tightly written, totally absorbing Scottish-based crime fiction. They no longer have the place to themselves because Denise Mina, and several other Tartan Noir authors reviewed and interviewed here on Crime Fiction Lover, are coming hot on their heals. Gods and Beasts is a pure pleasure to read – so set aside some time, turn off the mobile, grab a glass of wine and indulge in some first-rate crime writing. You deserve it!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars