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The Dead Hour    by Denise Mina order for
Dead Hour
by Denise Mina
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Dead Hour follows Field of Blood as the second in a gritty new thriller series starring wannabe crime reporter Paddy Meehan in Glasgow, Scotland. Paddy has a lot going against her - she's chubby, female, young, a feminist, and obsessed with the true crime story of her namesake, a safecracker who was framed for murder and pardoned due to the work of an investigative reporter. However, her pugnacious determination solved a (newsworthy) case in the first episode, leading to her promotion from copyboy to night shift on the newspaper's calls car.

She's out in the calls car with her driver Billy as the story opens on a cold February night in a wealthy suburb of the city. The police have been called on a noise complaint and see a woman, a lawyer named Vhari Burnett, with blood on her face. But she says she's okay and the handsome man at the door - who seems to know the police officer who took the call -bribes Paddy with a fifty-pound note, a large sum, given that she's the only member of her family earning at the moment. They leave the woman to her fate, a choice for which Paddy will later 'burn with shame'.

The next day, Paddy learns that the bloodied woman was tortured and killed that evening. But why did Vhari remain silent after the police arrived? The case haunts Paddy who starts digging, even as she's called to testify at the inevitable investigation of police inaction. In parallel, readers are given a window into the life of a once lovely, now drug-raddled young woman - Kate is a junkie who alternates between fleeing pursuers and seeking relief from her addiction. She has good reason to fear her followers as she carries a large stash of cocaine along with her.

The calls car ends up at a related death, the suicide of a lawyer who knew Vhari. Paddy is driven, both by guilt and by her desire to break a story that will get her off night shift. Compounding her error in taking the bribe, Paddy has a fling with an attractive policeman, who's also a talented amateur comic - more potential for guilt and shame. Though she continually resists the pressures and expectations of her close-knit Irish Catholic community, Paddy retains an admirable loyalty to them, and clings to many of their values. We see all aspects of her life - including her feelings about one sister's plans to become a nun, and the other's abuse by her husband - not just her work.

As in the first episode, Paddy's persistent search for truth brings her - and others - into the firing zone in a compelling story that melds sibling love, the drug trade, and police corruption with the digging of an unstoppable snoop. I enjoy entering Paddy Meehan's world and look forward to more - especially since there have been big changes in the newsroom, and this episode ended in a shocking revelation for Paddy that will cause her much soul searching next time.

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