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Mystery Books - Denise Mina - The Dead Hour

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Denise Mina
The Dead Hour
Little, Brown 2006
Hardcover 352 pages

The Dead Hour the mystery novel by Denise Mina is set in Scotland at the time of Margaret Thatcher and Lady Di when cell phones had not yet made an appearance on the technological landscape and newsroom copy was done on typewriters. The Dead Hour is not quite a man's kind of mystery novel but not because the main character is a woman. Rather, a male readership is less likely to relate to or be enamored by the character's food issues or the harassment she receives in the workplace.

The main character in The Dead Hour by Denise Mina is Paddy Meehan. She is difficult to like because she is an atypical heroine. Meehan is young and candid with a working class style and a penchant for slippery burgers. She is a lone wolf investigative journalist at a chauvinist-littered newspaper.  Working exclusively on the night shift, she travels in darkness, trailing the police to crime scenes in a seemingly futile search for stories enough beyond ordinary to print.

When Paddy Meehan attends a seemingly routine domestic abuse call in an affluent neighborhood, the police disperse quickly after they are assured that everything has settled down. The next morning, she is shocked to discover the victim, a prominent lawyer, had died from injuries inflicted the night before. When the man she saw at the crime scene vanishes the lack of police interest leads her to quickly realize that the investigation is being orchestrated in the wrong direction. Her own sleuthing pulls her into a dangerous world as she discovers connections between the murder and an apparent suicide and this becomes the biggest story of her young career.

Generally uncomplicated, The Dead Hour by Denise Mina takes time to build into a tidy, safe, yet interesting mystery novel. Mina provides easily connected dots that still leave some space for reader speculation. She occasionally employs lovely metaphors which hint at great literary possibilities.

However, compelling chapter headings such as "Homeland of Tramps and Whores", "A Hundred Shades of Gray", "A Bad Time for Big Girls", and even the title itself promise more grit and drama than sometimes unfold.

The typo on page 89 could use a revision in the event of a second printing or paperback release. That being said, The Dead Hour by Denise Mina grows in interest and provides a good, easy read on a red-eye or a weekend at the beach while the unexpected ending paves the way for a sequel.

Denis Bernicky

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