Gallus: Still Midnight by Denise Mina

July 20, 2010 | 2 Comments

Still Midnight

Denise Mina’s beginning to give me the heebie-jeebies. Her voice sounds like my own. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not implying I’m a talented writer too, it’s simply that we were both born in the same year, grew up in the same city, went to the same university, and have young weans and therefore mushrooms growing in our showers, so when her characters wax nostalgic for that damp exit off the motorway near dour Haggs Castle and get teary thinking about a cozy council house with a telly flickering in the window and the smell of toast, my toes curl in recognition. There is something eerie about reading an author who’s footering about in your own social and cultural back green. Still Midnight, Mina’s latest novel, is set in Glasgow’s south side, meaning she’s moved even closer to my youthful stomping ground than in her previous brill creations; I had pals called Shug and Malki (everybody did), and haunted Shawlands Academy though attended Hillpark; I, too, trolled up and down Allison street and visited the Vicky (Victoria Hospital) more times than I care to recall, while it extracted its pounds of flesh from our family life.

Alex Morrow, the ambitious but conflicted police officer in Still Midnight, is trying to solve the fall-out from a badly balls-ed-up crime. She attempts to understand the motivations and dynamics of the families involved, while pointedly refusing to face her own personal crises. Mina’s strength lies not only in her complex portrayal of her heroine, but in her astute understanding of human nature. Her criminals are ambivalent, violent, screwy, hapless – regular folk in other words. They do good things as well as bad, and too often make decisions based on circumstances and class expectations rather than common sense. All of us, at some point, look around and think like the accidental crook Pat, “I (don’t) belong here… knowing that what he meant was that he didn’t want to belong here.” 
Still Midnight is utterly gallus, dark and funny. I shudder to think what she might write next. A heist set in my granny’s flat? 

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