Mina, Denise. Still Midnight.

NY: Little, Brown, 2009.

It’s an ordinary late fall evening in the Muslim section of Glasgow and the extended Anwar family is going about its ordinary Ramadan affairs, when a couple of armed and masked men burst in, demanding a large amount of money from someone named “Bob.” There’s no Bob, only Muslim names, and one look at the house will tell anyone there’s not a lot of money around.

So the men scoop up Aamir, the elderly father, and take off. But not before one of the men has accidentally shot off the hand of sixteen-year-old Aleesha. (He says he’s sorry.)

A kidnapping interests Glasgow CID, of course, and it ought to be DS Alex Morrow’s case because it’s her turn in the rota, but it’s given instead to DS David Bannerman, the fast-tracked fair-haired boy of the DCI in charge of homicide. So Alex, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Anwars, is angry, especially since Bannerman, who is from a police family, is a not very bright cowardly twit. But it’s also because she’s terrific at detection but crap at dealing with people, especially within the department. And her marriage is coldly and silently falling apart, for very specific reasons that the reader slowly learns throughout the story (and which I won’t reveal here), which also makes her very hard to work with. And she knows all that, too.

The two kidnappers, Eddy and Pat, are also mostly a pair of stumblebums, which Eddy, and they don’t really know what they’re doing, their only experience being as nightclub doormen. Eddy fantasized about being a professional hard man, while Pat mostly fantasizes about Aleesha and getting away from Eddy. In fact, the only reason they stay free as long as they do is because the police screw things up even more thoroughly than they do. The least screwed-up character, really, is Malki, Pat’s wee junkie cousin, who drives the getaway car. But he’s doomed.

Alex, and even Bannerman on occasion, eventually work out the details of the kidnapping and the motives behind it (which are also screwed up) and the old man, who has been having a bit of a breakdown while he waited to be killed, manages to save himself. It’s a pretty good crime novel with no real heroes but great characters, and I’m pleased to see this is only the first in a series. I’ve read Mina’s earliest work, her “Garnethill” trilogy, which was excellent in a decidedly gritty way. This one is quite different but Glasgow is still one of the leading characters. Although, the way she portrays the city in all her books, it’s kind of a puzzle why anyone would want to remain there.


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