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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mina's trademark investigative thriller…, 10 Nov. 2005
This review is from: The Field Of Blood (Hardcover)
Two Paddy Meehan 's are the central protagonists in Field of Blood and although they both live in different times, they are inextricably linked, even though they never actually cross paths. Alternating between 1969 and 1981, author Denise Mina skillfully tells the story of Soviet spy Paddy Meehan who was wrongly convicted of murder. Paddy's trial and subsequent incarceration sent shockwaves through Scotland.
In 1981, Patricia "Paddy" Meehan is working as a copygirl at the Scottish Daily News, much to the chagrin of her Catholic working class parents and Sean, her fiancé, who scorns her ambition and mocks her desire for feminine independence. Indeed, Paddy hopes someday to become a journalist; she's overjoyed to be working with some of the hottest reporters in Scotland, even if they are misogynists.
The chubby young neophyte finds it hard to fit in with the newsroom boys; they're hard drinking, hard cussing men, who pick on her for being overweight, and who spend most of their time hanging out in the local press bar. Paddy's constantly jealous of her coworker Heather, who is thin and blond and college educated; Heather simultaneously strikes the admiration and fear in all of the men.
The chance opportunity to ride along with law enforcement puts Paddy in close proximity to one of the paper’s biggest stories, the murder of three-year-old Brian Wilcox, his body found beaten to death near the local train station. Brian's murder sends shockwaves through the community and even raised eyebrows within the jaded newsroom. When Paddy learns of a previously unknown personal connection to the case – one of the accused is actually Sean's cousin - she takes this chance of confiding what she knows to Heather to gain status in the office.
Heather, however, is not to be trusted, and publishes the story under her own name. Consequently, Paddy loses the trust of her own family, who blame her for the news report. Becoming an outcast, she wonders the snowy, rain soaked streets, becoming ever more obsessed with the crime, even her beloved Sean will have nothing more to do with her.
Faced with a police force that ignores and refutes her newfound evidence, our intrepid protagonist, pushes on with the case, sure that the elements are there, even when her unpracticed mind can't seem to tease sense into them. As Paddy's investigation unfolds, so do her diet of hard-boiled eggs, her engagement to Sean, and her sense of security and safety.
Author, Denise Mina ambitiously describes her beloved Scotland, painting a realistic picture of a working-class landscape that’s gray, bleak and solemn, yet also remarkably vivid. This is the early 1980's when Scotland's Catholic-Protestant conflicts are taking place and when Northern England is reeling under Margaret Thatcher's new economic policies. Old factories are closing, and the old ways of deep religious conservatism are starting to give way.
Even Paddy admits that everyone she knew who had suffered a terrible tragedy in his or her life offered it up to Jesus; and she admits that she's had enough of this. Paddy yearns to be surrounded by helping hands that would encourage her ambitions instead of being afraid of them.
Part murder investigation and part diatribe on newspaper and media politics, Field of Blood manages to be a taut thriller, with the pace of the novel remaining constant throughout. There's a slow building toward the inevitable, a perfectly executed finale, as Paddy investigates in all the wrong places, and makes some savage enemies along the way.
Although it reads like a thriller, Field of Blood is also a finely wrought tale of a single-minded and determined young girl who seeks to make an independent life for herself, hoping to break away from the stifling misogyny and working class conservatism that surrounds her. Mike Leonard November 05.
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