Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews Gods and Beasts (Reagan Arthur Books, $25.99) by Denise Mina.
Gods and Beasts (out tomorrow, 2/26) is the author’s tenth book (following last year’s widely acclaimed The End of the Wasp Season), and the third to feature Detective Sergeant (DS) Alex Morrow. Mina rose to prominence with the Garnethill trilogy, the first installment of which won her the John Creasey Memorial Prize for best first crime novel, and lives in Glasgow.
This particular story opens with a bang. Literally. The week before Christmas, a lone gunman enters a Glasgow post office with an AK-47 and proceeds to rob the place. Meanwhile, an elderly gentleman inexplicably hands his young grandson off to a stranger and then assists the robber in filling bags with cash and carrying them to the door, where he is shot dead in front of a room full of patrons. Upon initial investigation, DS Morrow finds that the PO’s alarm system had been disabled, though none of the employees have links to the shooter; further, the victim – a longtime campaigner for social justice – appears to be above reproach.
In the wake of the shooting, Mina whisks readers along on a journey that captures both the personal and procedural ramifications of such a tragedy. A chance meeting at a convenience store brings Martin Pavel face-to-face with the mother (Rosie Lyons) of the young boy that he shielded during the shooting; a discontented American, Pavel has his own crosses to bear – and yet he feels compelled to protect this grieving family. As he and Rosie forge an unlikely friendship, the realities of their disparate yet strangely intimate worlds reveal themselves, allowing for some transparency amidst a world that is otherwise largely characterized by subterfuge.
On the professional front, DS Morrow – already fatigued by the demands of new motherhood – is feeling the pressure. Not only is she charged with bringing the investigation to a quick resolution, but she’s also burdened with the responsibilities of her supervisory capacity, which are amplified given the fact that she’s operating in what is still a man’s world. As the case progresses, it becomes evident that the streets of her city are ripe with strife, and that power struggles and political conspiracy abound. To compound those issues, Morrow’s own background and affiliations threaten to undermine her authority.
It’s Alex Morrow’s sense of duty in times of despair that anchor this complex and claustrophobic novel, and Mina does an admirable job of portraying the underlying humanity in a place that has been ravaged by rampant corruption and greed. While the crime in question is certainly sufficient to sustain the reader’s interest – and its solution surprising and arguably poetic, even – it ultimately serves as more of a backdrop for a powerful and nuanced narrative that transcends simple classification. Denise Mina has quickly ascended the upper echelon of her genre, and Gods and Beasts is further proof of why…
With thanks to Miriam Parker, Online Marketing Director at Little, Brown and Company, for providing a review copy of Gods and Beasts.