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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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I enjoyed this book enormously. It has taken me a while to get round to Denise Mina and this is the first book of hers that I have read. It certainly won't be the last.

For those unfamiliar with Mina's work, the book is set in Glasgow in 1984 and the time and place are extremely well evoked without ever being intrusive, which gives a real solidity to the book. Another of its great strengths is the believable and well-drawn characters. In particular, the main protagonist, a young, struggling woman journalist called Paddy Meehan, is very well portrayed. She is an ordinary young woman from a poor background, slightly insecure and worried about her weight. She has no spectacular character traits or flaws to make her "interesting" nor does she have a particularly Complicated Personal Life - just the normal situations one might expect her to have to deal with - and yet she is a very engaging and interesting character. I thought her a really excellent creation by Mina, and the other characters are similarly well drawn and plausible.

Meehan works the night shift, and Mina creates a fine "film noir" atmosphere throughout the book. The plot is gripping and (praise be!) both plausible and comprehensible, and the narrative is well constructed, well written and entertaining. It builds the tension very nicely and I was completely enthralled. All in all, this is one of the best crime novels - indeed one of the best novels - I have read for some time. Very warmly recommended.
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I really enjoyed the first book in the Paddy Mehan trilogy: The Field of Blood and the slightly overweight, under confident trainee journalist in the sexist environment of the news room in 1980s Glasgow really got under my skin. Denise Mina has come up with an incredibly appealing combination of a thriller mixed with a hint of nostalgia at a particular time in history when everything was changing.

The Dead Hour is set about three years later and Paddy riding in the ‘night call car’, the one that follows the police radio around the city looking for newsworthy stories when they are called to one of the better areas in Glasgow. It seems to be a case of domestic violence, one that the attending police officers aren’t too interested in and despite being disturbed by the woman’s appearance there isn’t a great deal to call in about this on, and well the woman didn’t want Paddy’s help and the man had pressed a £50 note into her hand which Paddy hasn’t declared… until the next morning when a woman’s body is discovered. She was murdered; brutally beaten, tortured and left to die, Paddy has to readjust what she saw against this new knowledge.

What follows is a well-timed mystery set against the back-drop of this Scottish city largely struggling with poverty. Paddy is the only wage earner in her household, and the family’s position looks more precarious when the newspaper is forced to make cuts to the workforce. With office intrigue, a personal life that is over-shadowed by her Catholic upbringing and a fierce ambition which is at odds with society’s ideas of what should be important to a young woman.

I loved the 37 short chapters that move the story along at a pace which simply begged for just another one before I closed the book and although the underlying storyline wasn’t quite as compulsive as the previous one, there was never any doubt that this was a story being told by an assured writer. There are plenty of opportunities for Paddy to put in her black throwaway lines that make these books such a joy to read.

“It was Lord of the Flies without table manners.”

And of course there is plenty of references to the eighties, that decade of superb fashion:

“Paddy saw short ra-ra skirts and ski-pants and nipped waists. It was a bad time for big girls.”

But running through the book is the scourge of drugs, a less welcome aspect of the decade which is possibly why I didn’t enjoy this story quite so much. Reading about drug dealers and their petty rivalries and the effects on those who fall under their spell just isn’t really my cup of tea, although I’m sure that Denise Mina has accurately captured them in all their glory as she has done with the local police who have a whiff of corruption surrounding them.

“You’re only a year older than me. How come you dress like Val Doonican?”
He sat back and smiled at her, pulling his V-neck straight. It wasn’t his usual toothy matinee-idol smile but a coy asymmetric face crumple. “I’m a polis. This gear is cool in the polis.”

As this book ends on a bombshell, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be reading the last episode of this trilogy, The Last Breath, in the not too distant future and I can tell you I big plans to investigate the entire back-catalogue of work. After all if I can be captivated by a book that focusses on my least favourite aspect of crime I know for sure that this is one author that will be forever on my watch list!
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Glasgow's own Denise Mina, whose latest book is "The Dead Hour," is one of the hottest new stars in the galaxy of "Tartan Noir." That is, mysteries as currently written by several Scots. More ferocious and bloodthirsty than most, sporting that black Scottish sense of humor, macabre and sly.

"The Dead Hour" again stars Paddy Meehan, who was introduced in The Field of Blood. It's still the 1980's, Margaret Thatcher's bleak regime. Paddy is still working at the "Scottish Daily News," but has been promoted from copyboy. She's now a reporter, 21 years old, last and least of the pack, who'd better get herself some ink soon. Or else. She's still Catholic, fat, poorly dressed and sporting a spikey hairdo: the girl really can't trade on her looks. She's trying to succeed in a rough and tumble environment. Her coworkers are Protestant, sexist, hard-drinking, hard-bitten older men, sprung from the working class, as is she. But, although Paddy isn't particularly well-educated, she's smart, insightful and conscientious. She has her instincts and intuitions. And she is, in fact, determined to stand on her own two feet, at the job and in her world. She'd better, as her father and brothers have been laid off, and she's now sole support of her family.

Paddy, least senior reporter, is on the night shift, assigned to chase the police radio wherever it takes her as "The Dead Hour" opens. One night, the radio takes her to a prosperous suburb on a domestic violence call. Two BMWs are parked behind the house. There's a bloody-faced woman visible inside: she doesn't seem to want any help. And there's a handsome, pleasant, well-dressed man at the door: he doesn't want any help either. He gives Paddy a 50 pound note to go away quietly. We're to assume he bribed the cops as well. By next day, the woman has been tortured and murdered. A little preliminary investigation tells Paddy that the cops on call with her seem to have been at a different crime scene. Thus is the plot set in motion. That 50 pound note would do a lot of good at Paddy's house, but she shouldn't have taken it.

Unfortunately, I didn't find the unfolding plot very rewarding. It all devolves into that old devil ruthless drug dealer with friends in high places. And Mina continues that distracting subplot from "Field of Blood."

The element of "The Dead Hour" that I found most appealing is its two pair of sisters. Paddy and Mary Ann, who seems to be bound for the convent. The victim, Vhari Burnett, prominent attorney, and Kate, beautiful cokehead.

Mina continues to use Glasgow as her setting, catching it on the page. As "They were cruising along empty roads to the south bank of the Clyde where a body had been seen floating in the fast-moving water. A cold mist began to descend on the midnight city, a stagnant exhalation that clung to the tops of passing cars. Yellow street lights jostled hard against the thickening dark."

Mina's also still got that old black magic, that audacious sense of humor. Coke addict Kate kills a man with an everyday object never used before in this way, I swear. Then Kate finds cocaine has leveled her nose, as it will. "She took a deep breath and looked in the mirror. Her nose had flattened at the bridge. A glacial deposit of scarlet and white skin sat on her top lid, dried and hard. She prodded it with a fingertip. Solid. No wonder she couldn't sniff or breathe out of her nose. She turned sideways and looked at her profile. Flat as a wall. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She'd get a nose job later, when things got ironed out. They could do amazing things now."

At one point, Mina writes," Paddy felt the pull of the town and really wanted to go to work, wondering what her city was throwing up tonight." Many of us would really like Mina to keep working. We too wonder what her city will throw up tonight.
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on 30 July 2006
This book is like Denise Mina's others - fantastic! Very hard to put down, wanting to see what happens in the next chapter. Takes a good few twists & the end is brilliant. Just hope there is a follow up to this.
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on 14 December 2013
Paddy Meehan is a proper journalist but still she is on the night time drive around, responding to the police radio, chasing calls for a story. Then she visits a house in Bearsden where a domestic has been called in. A woman with a bruised face turns the police away and the man at the door offers Paddy £50 to turn a blind eye. She takes it. Then the woman turns up dead.

Feeling responsible and guilty, Paddy investigates the crime and tries to avoid being found out for taking the bribe.

This is an excellent 2nd book in this trilogy and sets up well for the third. Gripping, realistic crime, devoid of cliches and shock value.
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on 8 August 2006
I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with the reviewer of 'The Dead Hour' and the previous reviews of Denise Mina's other novels. While I agree that she uses her background in criminal law and growing up in Glasgow to great effect, neither of those facts make her a great writer. Many people liked 'Taggart' because it showed places they knew but that didn't make 'Taggart' great nor does it makes these novels great either. Mina's previous plots have consistently rushed to conclusions that often don't ring 100% true; this is once again the case in 'The Dead Hour'. Jarring notes appear as personal bugbears are run out as off-the-cuff social commentaries. The style is consistent with the rest of the crime genre in its simple delivery but it is also occasionally repetitive (count the number of times when something is described as 'buttery', a fairly apt description of Mina's style); and what about the editing?

There are errors in continuity that an editor should have spotted (for example, the villain's shirt changes colour during the final confrontation) and the writing in general shows that Mina is not trained as a writer but as a lawyer. An editor should be developing Mina as a writer, not a means of earning-revenue to Glasgwegian crime fans keen to see their favourite pub and their old school mentioned in print.

This is a good, engaging story and the novels are definitely worth reading but just because you set a novel in Glasgow and have a bit of inside knowledge about a subject doesn't make this novel as great as other reviewers seem to think. Unfortunately, I have just read all three Louise Welsh novels over a weekend, and the gaps in structure and style in Denise Mina's novels are all too clearly highlighted.
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on 1 July 2012
Paddy Meehan, 21 years old and on night shift [called the "calls car" shift, and encompassing the Dead Hour, 3 AM], at the Scottish Daily News in Glasgow, makes one of her usual nightly calls, following the police radio in the car and going to the address to which the police have been summoned. This time it appears to be a domestic disturbance, the victim a young, elegant-looking blond woman who, though obviously bloodied, refuses any assistance and, when Paddy catches her eye, seems to slightly shake her head. The police leave, aided by the passing of money into their hands from the man who had answered the door, a scenario replayed moments later when Paddy, herself now the recipient of a 50 pound note, tries to question him. The following morning Paddy learns that the body of the blond woman, a prosecution attorney from a wealthy family, has been found, having been tortured, beaten and left to die, and she is tormented by the possible role she may have played by her quiescence.

To salve her conscience and, not incidentally, hoping to make her mark as an investigative journalist at the same time, Paddy follows up on the story, which expands when another death follows, whether suicide or murder an uncertain matter.

Glasgow, its rougher as well as finer areas, the helplessness of those affected by 1980's unemployment, and the protagonist's Irish Catholic background, are well drawn, as is Paddy, young, rebellious, hardworking [sole support of her parents and several siblings] and ambitious. The author having interspersed a second pov, contained within but separate from its surrounding chapters, was a bit confusing at first to this reader, as the identity of the second voice in unclear [although the reader knows her name] - it is really her relation to the rest of the story thus far that is not clear. It is not until over 50 pages into the book that her identity becomes evident. The effect of this device is to steadily build the suspense which, despite the book having begun at a moderate pace, grows till the hold-your-breath conclusion and a shocking twist before a very satisfying conclusion. As for that cliffhanger in the last line, the resolution of that will have to await the next book in the series, which I will eagerly await.

The Dead Hour is the second in the Paddy Meehan series, following Field of Blood, and Ms. Mina's earlier books, including Deception and the Garnethill trilogy.
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on 1 June 2013
By moody I mean it creates the mood of the period and the characters with no holds barred. So you have great developed characters you can understand together with the tension of a good thriller. To put it another way the book can be enjoyed on a number of levels with recognisable characters, locations and situations around a very good plot again with levels of complexity. It is avery good read at whatever level you want to take it. I am now ready for the next development of Paddy Mehan.
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on 30 September 2013
Brilliant tale of a young girl at the start of her career wasted on the night shift but solving the crime of the moment , despite the best efforts of the police.
Dripping with Glasgow colour and humour as well as evoking the 80s perfectly, thus is an extremely well written and gripping tale of yuppie crime and excess.
Can't wait to see what happens to Paddy (well both Paddys) next.
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on 22 June 2013
I am now waiting on the arrival of the next book from Ms Mina. This was another a great read. Her characters really resonate with me, as if they were real people. I've come to like them, warts and all. Brilliant.
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