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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Last Breath (Paddy Meehan Book 3)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2010
I read the first two Paddy Meehan stories with enjoyment and looked forward to this, the third and last installment of the young Glaswegian journalist's encounters with crime. It was a disappointment. The right elements seem to be there: couthy Scots characters, a murder in chapter one, a subplot involving Paddy's ex-fiance, humour on the right side of dark - all present and correct. Somehow it doesn't hang together this time.

Let's start with Paddy herself. The character has developed from a young girl at the beginning of her career and hungry for success, to an established hack with a regular column in a substantial daily newspaper. There's the first problem. Paddy Meehan has turned into someone I would cross the street to avoid: a journalist paid for her scathing opinions and turn of phrase - a Caledonian Julie Burchill if you like. And success for Meehan means much of the tension drains away. True she has a young son to support and her love life is still far from ideal, but now she's well paid and respected, it's hard to root for her in the same way as before. And it means that her sharp tongue and wrong headedness become irritating instead of refreshing.

Then there's the plot. An old boyfriend of Paddy's is murdered. He leaves her the contents of his flat. Of course, the reason for the murder forms part of those contents, but instead of torching the place, like any sensible criminal would, the killer decides to go after Paddy. I'm tired of plots which make people do daft things for the convenience of the story. Worse still is the subplot about a young cousin of Meehan's ex, convicted of murdering a child (think James Bulger here) and about to be released into the care of said ex. What? Pardon? This guy would last two minutes on the outside before the lynch mob came calling and yet the authorities make no attempt to hide his identity or whereabouts. Again, it's a case of twisting reality to fit the plot and like a shoe that doesn't fit, there's a limit to how long I can wear this stuff.

I put it aside half finished and can only hope the next Mina is better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2014
The first two Paddy Meehan books were excellent and set a very high standard - a standard that this book fails to maintain unfortunately, but it's still a decent read.

The first two books were realistic and believeable and you cared about Paddy. This book has a nonsense plot (it would have been sorted at source in US by taking camera) and falls into so many cliches - a renegade IRA man, shadowy and unexplained secret service, a corrupt senior policeman that no-one exposes, dead bodies disappearing, a mother that will do anything to protect her son (yawn), a pathologist who strikes up an immediate friendship during a corpse identification to give a piece of plot development and then is never mentioned again, and so on. As soon as the young priest was mentioned it was obvious that yet another cliche was going to be used - and this was the most disappointing one of all.

However, it is still a decent read and keeps the attention. It was interesting to see what happened the characters from the earlier books and the continuity and interlinking of the previous books was good.

The ending was particularly disappointing and very similar to the previous book - just how many times can Paddy be involved in similar incidents?

I hope there will be another book to continue Paddy's journey - but back to original standard please.
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"The Last Breath," (2007) is third in the British reckoning of the Paddy Meehan series of British mysteries, what Americans call Slip of the Knife. It follows on The Field of Blood; (2005), and The Dead Hour(2006), by increasingly well-known Scottish-born author Denise Mina. She must now be considered a leading practitioner, in company with Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, of the Scottish crime writing school that has come to be known as "tartan noir," for its high level of violence, sheer bloody-mindedness, and grisly, witty humor. Mina burst on the scene with her debut novel, Garnethill that won the John Creasey Memorial Award; she was born in the vicinity of Glasgow, where all her novels have so far been set. As a child, her father's work took her all over the world: she has since, since her return to that city, worked in the field of health care, studied law at the University of Glasgow, and taught criminal law and criminology.

"Last Breath," as all of Mina's production so far, is set in Glasgow, her home town, in 1990. It picks up the story of Patricia (Paddy) Meehan, erstwhile girl reporter, now successful, locally famous girl columnist in the shrinking newspaper business. She drinks too much, eats too much unhealthy food, and is unable to give up smoking: that just makes her a Scot, along with her countrymen. But she's doing fine, has a son, Pete, and a loving roommate/friend, Dub, some family troubles. Until the police suddenly notify her that her old beau/friend/colleague/newspaper rival Terry Hewitt has been brutally murdered, in an execution style that hints of the Irish Republican Army, who have not been previously active in Scotland. Hardened crime reporter that she has been, Meehan begins investigating. At the same time, Callum Ogilvy, cousin of a former beau of Paddy's, who has been and is a close family friend, is to be released from prison. Newspapers are agog. Callum has had the misfortune of becoming internationally famous as the result of the notorious case that forms the core of "Field." Two young boys, of nine and ten, have tortured and beaten a toddler to death. (Mina has based this on a distressing well-known true case: the 1990s murder, in Liverpool, England, of little Jamie Bulgar.)

Once again, the author manages to steer her tales to reasonably happy endings, telling them with verve and skill, in the somewhat dark and violent way that "tartan noir" predicts. She also perpetuates the Lord Byron festival in which I have recently found myself living, by quoting his description of their mutual home country as a "Land of Sophistry and Mist." But this time out, she's really just giving us a mystery. And mystery lovers could do a lot worse. Any darkness is well-flavored with Mina's outstanding love for and knowledge of her city, and dry wit.

She once again sets her scene, letting us know how well the city has cleaned up: "For a century Glasgow had been a byword for deprivation and knife-wielding teenage gangs but in the past few years the thick coat of black soot had been sandblasted off the old buildings, revealing their pale yellow sandstone that glittered in the sun, or blood orange stone that clashed with blue skies. International theater companies and artists had started coming to the city, colonizing unlikely venues, old churches, schools, markets and abandoned sheds, places the locals failed to notice every day. Glaswegians no longer felt as defensive of their home, began to look around with renewed interest, like a partner in a stale marriage finding out that their spouse was a heartthrob abroad."
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on 4 February 2015
Far fetched unlikely plot. A disappointment considering the previous two Paddy Meehan books. Mina should include more of the newspaper life of a journalist and less improbable personal situations. Refuse to follow up on a £50,000 offer for the story of a child killer released from prison? The killer taken into a relative's home where a child lives? Come on! As for the ending.......!!!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2008
Denise Mina's newest book opens with the shocking murder of Terry Hewitt, former boyfriend of her protagonist, Paddy Meehan. They had known each other since they were both in their teens, eleven years ago, but it had been six months since they had seen each other. Paddy is now 27, and has graduated from her lowly position at the Daily News to her present celebrity status with a regular column of her own, in addition to being a published author. Terry, in turn, had just signed a book deal of his own, and Paddy is told by the police that his killing "had all the hallmarks of an IRA hit...his body found stripped naked in a ditch, single shot to the head." He had been a journalist as well, later "went to war zones, conflict zones, did hard reporting on a world stage...the last of a dying breed...had witnessed corruption and brutality, women raped and murdered, children mutilated, whole villages put to the torch...a fifteen-year-old Angolan boy, shot between the eyes right in front of him." But in the moments before he is killed, after thinking that he "had been arrested in Chile, seen a woman necklaced in Soweto, stood on the edge of a riot in Port-au-Prince," he has no idea why he is about to be murdered on a road on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland.

In many respects Paddy has changed little over the years since she first appeared in Ms. Mina's books, of which this is the third: She still hates her appearance, believing she is too fat; still feels she has to prove herself to the misogynistic men around her; though she attends Mass, she still rebels against her family's Catholicism--her sister is a nun, "wasn't even prepared to take communion and had had a child out of wedlock," a son, Pete, now nearly six years old, who she adores. When she is told by the police that Terry had listed her as his next of kin, with her new address that she didn't even realize he had known, she has no choice. When the effects of that investigation threaten not only Paddy but her son as well, the stakes are raised all the way around.

A parallel story line deals with the release after nine years in prison of young Callum Ogilvy, who with another boy had been found guilty of the brutal murder of a toddler, following Paddy's investigation - she had been engaged to Callum's cousin, Sean - described in an earlier book.

Ms. Mina's descriptions conjure up her characters precisely, e.g., someone's wife is "blond, tall, and so thin she could have opened letters with her chin;" in a photo she sees "a woman of eighty, arms crossed, grinning, the folds in her skin deep enough to lose change in;" and, of her editor: "Nature, time and his temperament had conspired to perfect McVie's glower. His face and posture fitted around misery as neatly as cellophane over a cup." The author maintains an undercurrent of menace. Paddy is a gutsy, slightly vulgar and very human protagonist, the characters and the setting very well drawn, the writing and the story taut with a hold-your-breath quality. Highly recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2014
I have read several of the Paddy stories and have enjoyed them. This was a page turner also. The ending is such a disappointment though.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2013
The last in the Paddy Meehan trilogy and the book opens with Paddy's ex-boyfriend being found dead. He has left her a dodgy old country bolt-hole and some clues as to who might have killed him. Paddy feels bound to investigate as the events of the last 2 novels also come to collide in this volume. Connor, her other ex-boyfriend's cousin, jailed for killing a child, has been released and the people responsible for the murders in volume 2 are coming after Paddy.

A tidy but gripping resolution to the trilogy.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2012
It rattles along at a good pace. It's almost possible to forget all the unfinished bits and pieces of the story. But hardly anything tied up to a conclusion. The gory first chapter seemed to be unnecessary. The pathologist came and went; seemed to be a story in the making there that was abandoned. Some mention of a bloke been in prison for thirty years never heard any more. Strange police practices. There were bar scenes reminiscent of the twenties, even though it was supposed to be set in 1990. Now and again she seemed never to get to bed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2012
Denise Mina is a top rate writer. Paddy Meehan, her journalist creation, is one of those characters of whom you just need to know more.
Highly recommmended but do start with Paddy Meehan 1. You will not be sorry if you love crime novels.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2013
The Last Breath brings the Paddy Meehan trilogy to an exciting and memorable finale. However, I can't help feeling that this story has more to go! I hope there is a fourth novel in the near future! An excellent read!
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