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Field of Blood by Denise Mina

Field of Blood (2005)

by Denise Mina

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Denise Mina, as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of her work, certainly falls on the darker side of the spectrum in terms of setting, characters (even protagonists) and stories. The residents of Mina's Glasgow are often flawed in ways we can all recognize, if not relate to, and usually struggle to keep their head above water as they deal with circumstances of ethnicity, geography and, usually, class.

To read a Denise Mina novel is to see the world reflected in a brutally objective, but always compelling and artfully executed, mirror.

This would make for dreary reading were it not for her deadly wit, strangely reminiscent of Jane Austen in its often cynical social commentary.

In Field of Blood, the first installment of the Paddy Meehan series, Mina’s gift for showing how social mores and family ties ultimately control us all are in fine form, though there is less humor.

Paddy Meehan, A Glasgow native named after a real-life man wrongly convicted of murder and ultimately redeemed by the dogged work of an enterprising journalist, is a copyboy determined to become a journalist herself.

That backdrop alone – a Glasgow press room in early 1980s, when no women need apply and reporters openly drink on shift at the pub next door, long before print’s quick demise under the monolithic internet is even a speculative thought– makes for great reading in and of itself. Mina does not disappoint in who she populates the newsroom with either, as always maintaining wonderfully diverse voices for each characters (in a Mina novel, characters never sound the same, even when they're from the same neighborhood or SES).

Still, readers of her Garnett Hill trilogy may feel, as I did, that there is something a bit rawer and less sophisticated in Mina’s writing in this book, and I wondered as I read this book if this wasn’t one of her earlier works.

Which isn't to say, in any way, one shouldn't read it. It is not to be missed. The brutal torture and murder of a toddler by two young boys is par for the course in terms of a dark subject matter. Moreover, this is one of the first book I have ever read where I was truly disturbed and unsettled within the first few pages, and I have read quite a bit of both true crime, crime reporting and fictional crime. But this murder lingered for reasons I won't say as it that would be a rather obnoxious spoiler.

For Paddy, the murder ultimately forces her to explore her ambition, her morals, her strengths and even her faith and family ties. The answers are sometimes messy, sometimes cruelly clear-cut, but all the more satisfying for that.

American readers, myself included, may need to brush up on the social unrest in Scotland during 1981 between Catholics and Protestants and a worker’s movement, but it is not essential to be versed in these things to understand or enjoy this book. Mina, as always, will show you, whether you’re ready or not.

Before ending this review, it's worth adding a side note. Another thing that struck me about this book is that Paddy is a woman who is overweight and, naturally, trying to lose weight. As a woman who has struggled with her weight for her entire life, I have never read a more true account of what it is like to have the all-pervasive, ever-present internal dialogue of what want has/did/didn’t/shouldn’t have/will/won’t eat, each and every day. I found it refreshing and startling, and, if I am honest, it actually forced me to acknowledge how much I have allowed my own weight to be tied to my self-worth, and not for the better.

As a writer, I’m amazed at Mina’s ability to do this as, judging from her photos, she has not struggled with her weight. But perhaps she has. At any rate, I admire her courage and, honestly, it made Paddy a much more realistic character in the end. At the very least, it speaks for Mina's technical skill in crafting and maintaining character.

So, if you’re a fan of Denise Mina to begin with, you’ll enjoy this book, but perhaps not as much as some of her others. For a series beginning though, it is a great beginning. I’m so looking forward to getting to know Paddy more in the future.

*** This review can be seen in its original post on my mystery review blog, The Body on the Floor, on Blogger. You can find it, and other character series mystery reviews, at: http://bodyonthefloor.blogspot.com *** ( )
1 vote Shutzie27 | Nov 8, 2015 |
I literally had to put this book on hold for three weeks because I was 80% done and thought I could finish it in one night, and then realized the story was still going to continue and possibly end badly and didn't want to read it before going to bed because I'd have bad dreams. Today I finally had my first day off in three weeks so I was determined to finish it and while I am glad that I didn't try to read it at night, I am feeling somewhat let down at the ending. To avoid spoilers, I will just say that I feel like there was too much redemption for the main character.

But how beautifully written and constructed. Fantastic characters. For the writing and storytelling alone I will try another book by this author. ( )
  Caryn.Rose | Mar 18, 2015 |
Paddy Meehan is a young Catholic girl growing up in an Irish family in Glasgow in 1981. She has managed to land a fairly job on the Scottish Daily News where she dreams of becoming a reporter in her own right. As winter draws in the population Glasgow is shocked by the cruel murder of a young babywhose mutilated body is discovered abandoned and abused in a poor slum area. Worse still, it transpires that the baby had been tortured and then killed by young boys.

While the murder seems to be an open-and-shut case, Paddy is convinced that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Delving through the newspaper's own clippings library she uncovers a similar crime from eight years ago, and starts to investigate further.

As the story of the murdered boy unfolds we are given flashbacks to the story of another Paddy Meehan, this one male, who had been imprisoned, erroneously, for the brutal murder of the wife of an Ayrshire businessman. Mina weaves the two narrative together very deftly, and offers up a very convincing and engaging story. Glasgow itself is an ever-present character with its air of menace and religious bigotry.

Very entertaining. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Oct 13, 2014 |
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Glasgow, 1981: Patricia "Paddy" Meehan, an aspiring journalist, is a copyboy at the Scottish Daily News, trying to make her way in a predominantly male profession. The paper is swept up in covering the brutal murder of a four-year-old boy, and one of the suspects turns out to be a relative of Paddy's fiancé. Where do her loyalties lie, the family or her career? And how much risk is she prepared to take to uncover the truth?

I really enjoyed this book. The portrayal of Glasgow in the early 80s was one of the selling points for me, and it delivered. It also taught me a few things about the religious background of the city; as a Catholic, Paddy feels like an outsider in a predominantly Protestant town. Paddy herself makes a likeable and relatable heroine, especially when she's trying to figure out what she wants to do and how to reconcile that with what everyone else wants her to do---who hasn't had that struggle?

Of the other characters, Dr Pete struck a particular chord with me. I'm not sure if it's because Peter Capaldi plays him in the 2011 TV adaptation of this novel or what, but I was touched by his quiet mentoring of Paddy and his swansong at the very end of the book. It still makes me cry a little even now as I write about it.

I would recommend this if you want to know about Glasgow in between the eras covered by Gordon Ferris in his Douglas Brodie series and Christopher Brookmyre in his Jasmine Sharp/Catherine Macleod series. I'd also recommend it if you are fond of stories involving pre-Internet journalism and female protagonists. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Sep 30, 2014 |
I got this at a library sale. It was published in 2005 but the bulk of the story takes place in 1981 (there are some parts that took place in the mid-1960's). It features Paddy Meehan, and it is the first book in a series. There were three of them published in 05, 06 and 07. She is a young copyboy at a Glasgow newpaper. When a young boy is brutally murdered and the young cousin of her fiancee is arrested with another boy, she doubts the police's theory of the crime which holds that the two boys acted alone. So, she starts to investigate.
It is high quality writing. We see almost everything from Paddy's perspective. We get to know her well, seeing her with her family and co-workers. The city of Glasgow also plays a major role. I'll read the rest of the books of the trilogy.
You can read the book here: http://www.rulit.net/books/field-of-blood-read-205778-1.html ( )
1 vote BillPilgrim | Feb 25, 2014 |
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Judas . . . purchased a field with the reward of iniquity . . . And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem . . . that [the] field is called . . . the field of blood.

ACTS 1: 16-19 (King James Version)
For Fergus.

Fight on, baby.
First words
They were still traveling, into the dark.
He could see figures running, melting into the brightness, and then, as if the fact of other people had been a mistake, he was alone again.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031615458X, Mass Market Paperback)

A sensational murder provides the young journalist Paddy Meehan with her big professional break when she realizes that she has a personal connection to one of the suspects.Launching her own investigation, Paddy uncovers lines of deception that go deep into the past - and that could spell even more horrible crimes in the future if she doesn't get the story right.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:58 -0400)

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When her fiance's cousin is implicated in the murder of a young boy and a rival reporter leaks the story, fledgling Scottish journalist Paddy Meehan is forced to salvage her relationship with her future in-laws by clearing the cousin's name.

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