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Denise Mina, author of the
award-winning Garnethill and two others in the same trilogy, as well as
the excellent Deception (reviewed in Metapsychology
March 2005), sticks to her setting of Scotland and the genre of crime
mystery in her new novel Field of Blood. It is a more conventional
novel than her previous one, starting out with a murder of a baby and ending
with the solution of the mystery of "whodunit," which is unlikely to
surprise most readers even if they did not actually predict the ending. There
are other elements that make this novel distinctive, however. First, the main
character is not a professional detective, but rather an 18-year-old girl,
Paddy Mehan, working for her local newspaper. She lives at home with her
family and is unwilling to tell her Catholic family that she does not believe
in God. Second, the setting of the book is the newspaper world (in 1981)
rather than that of the police or private investigators. The most interesting
characters, apart from Paddy herself, are the journalists, and many scenes are
set either in the newspaper office or in the local pub. Third, there is a
back-story of Paddy's namesake, a well-known local man who was framed by the
police for a murder, for which he had spent seven years in solitary confinement
before he was pardoned. This story plays only a minor role in the main plot,
and it is almost completely omitted from the abridged audiobook version.
Young Patricia Mehan is a
surprisingly charismatic lead character, and very different from the usual
sleuth. She is overweight and she hopes to lose some pounds through her diet
of grapefruit and boiled eggs. She is rather naïve but she knows that she
wants a career, and that she will have to fight to get one. The newspaper
world is very male-dominated and she has to keep her wits about her so that the
men don't get the best of her with their cruel jokes, especially the ones about
her being fat. Her boyfriend Sean wants her to give up her ambitions and be
content with a future as his wife and mother of their future children.
However, Paddy finds journalism fascinating and she wants to move up from her
current position of just running other people's errands to actually become a
journalist. She gets her chance when she discovers that one of young boys who
are accused of murdering the baby is a cousin of Sean, and she has a scoop on
the story. However, she also knows that her family would be very angry with
her if she revealed any personal details in the newspaper. This is one of the
many dilemmas she faces throughout the book, where she has to weigh her family
against her career.
Mina has a notable ability to
capture details of Scottish life and speech, and her prose is very easy to
read. The plot is not in itself very remarkable, but the book is enjoyable.
It is the first in a projected series of novels and readers can look forward to
the development of Paddy Mehan's character. The abridged audiobook inevitably
skips many great parts of the full version, but it has integrity and it read
engagingly by Heather O'Neill.
© 2005 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Audiobook publisher: Highbridge Audio
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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