Friday, March 16, 2012

The Dead Hour

Denise Mina's The Dead Hour, follows Paddy Meehan's activities after Field of Blood, in which she was introduced.

Many of her fellow reporters are laid off near the beginning of the novel, as the newspaper tries to adjust to changing times and become more punchy and less serious.  (It's hard to believe the novel is set in 1984; this part feels very contemporary).  Paddy is still working the crime beat, still trying to be taken seriously in a men's world, still pulling in the only paycheck in her extended family.

She witnesses a killing, though she doesn't realize it at the time, and ends up running afoul of a small drug ring.  In a way, the whole novel is on a very small scale.  It's actually a bit of a relief to read a novel where the drug ring is still just a few people, the corruption is limited to a few cops, and so on.  In a lot of novels where the lone character breaks one of these drug rings, a part of me is saying, "yeah, right."  But here it feels pretty realistic, because, in the end, the guy is just a small-time operator.

On the down side, we spend a lot of time with one of the possible witnesses in the cases, Kate, and she's so irritating and egotistical that it's hard to work up any sympathy for her, and I was just waiting for those parts to end.  I'm not against irritating and egotistical characters (Pale Fire is one of my favorite books), but I think it takes a very special kind of skill to write them well, and, here at least, Mina's not quite up to the task.

On a totally different note, she manages to completely close off the plot and yet end on a cliffhanger anyway.  Not sure if I'm impressed or annoyed (especially since I have the next one in my to-read pile anyway).

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