Written by Denise Mina — Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award winner – for The End of the Wasp Season – Denise Mina has featured on this site before. I reviewed Gods and Beasts here last year and loved it. In both of those books, the central character was DI Alex Morrow and she is at the heart of The Red Road too.
A quick Google search taught me that the Red Road is a real place in Glasgow. It is an area of high-rise flats, built in the mid 1960s, which at one time held the distinction of being the highest in Europe at 292 feet (89 metres). They are now being systematically demolished, with the last of the blocks set to disappear in 2017. One of the blocks features in this book, and the chapter had me gulping for air, so realistic were the descriptions of climbing up to the 11th floor of the partially-demolished building. I’ve never had a book give me vertigo before!
Real as they are, the Red Road flats also serve as a telling metaphor in this book because wherever you turn in it, there are people whose lives are being rocked to their very foundations too. Chief among them is Alex Morrow herself. The mother of young twins, she is struggling to find a satisfactory balance between home and work. The waters are muddied by the fact that she is bedding in a new team in the fall out from the finale of Gods and Beasts. And more and more people seem to be talking about her gangster half-brother Danny. She’s never sought to hide the fact that they’re related, but it’s becoming increasingly problematic.
The story begins in 1997. Rose Wilson, a 14-year-old from a Glasgow care home, kills two people in one night. We leave her sitting in a car alongside one of the bodies, waiting for the police to arrive. Leap forward to the present day, and Morrow is in a witness room at the Crown Court, waiting to appear in the case against Michael Brown, a hardened criminal who has spent most of his life in jail – starting as a teenager, when he was convicted of the murder of his brother.
And that’s when the alarm bells begin ringing for the reader – because we witnessed Rose killing Pinkie Brown, so why has his brother served time for a crime he didn’t commit? Cue a complex and complicated story which keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Rose is now a nanny to the grandchildren of the man who saved her from a life in prison, and we follow her story as well as that of Alex Morrow and a cast of supporting characters. As the pieces begin to fall into place, the truth eventually reveals itself.
I was impressed by Denise Mina’s writing on first acquaintance and I’m even more impressed after our second meeting. The Red Road is a finely tuned piece of work which twists and turns like a Highlands B-road, and gets you to your destination feeling breathless and ready for a tot of whisky. Recommended reading and a great addition to the library of fine crime fiction that is emanating from Scotland at the moment.
Read our interview with Denise Mina here. The Red Road is released on 4 July.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars