The Dead Hour by Denise Mina

94176Fiction – print. Little Brown and Company, 2006. 341 pgs. Received from PaperBackSwap.

Paddy Meehan works the night shift for a Glasgow newspaper, shadowing the police as they’re dispatched on calls in the hopes it will mean being first on the scene to a major story. Called out to a domestic dispute, Paddy thinks this will be yet another night of no leads. After all, even the ritzy address doesn’t mean her editors will care about a domestic.

But that feeling changes when the man who answers the door as the police are clearing out slips fifty quid into her hand and asks her not to publish anything. (With her father and brothers unemployed and layoffs threatened at work, Paddy keeps the money without making that promise.) Then, the lead TV news in the morning is that a blond woman has been tortured, beaten, and left for dead at the very address Paddy and the police responded to last night.

Realizing she’s the only one who can identify the man who answered the door, Paddy launches her own investigation into the murder. An investigation that leads to her back to the body she saw pulled from the river, an apparent suicide that is now anything but.

When I requested this book off PaperBackSwap, I erroneously assumed that this was the start of a new series by Mina rather than the second in an already established series. Unfortunately, this is one series where the author assumes a certain level of prior knowledge on the part of the reader. I felt rather lost amid references to the biggest story of Paddy’s career – I thought this was supposed to be the story – and the interactions between her and a male character whom she has sex with. I guess he was part of breaking that previous story?

As such, it was hard to enjoy this book. I didn’t find Paddy a particularly compelling character. She suffers from a lack of self-esteem and is easy distracted by her romantic entanglements, and yet we’re supposed to believe that she’s incredibly inquisitive. More right place, right time than anything else. Worse, the central crime was rather convoluted. I’m still not entirely sure I know whodunit, especially given the open ending that was clearly meant to set up for a third novel. A book I’m not exactly eager to pick up given how boring and mousey I found Paddy.

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