"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Field of Blood

TITLE: Field of Blood
AUTHOR: Denise Mina

I chose this book to read based on the favorable review in Publishers Weekly, and I wasn't disappointed. In what is the first of a series, Denise Mina spends much of the book setting up and introducing her main character, a plump 18-year-old wannabe journalist named Paddy Meehan who is working as a copyboy at a newspaper in Glasgow in 1981. The mystery revolves around the murder of a toddler named Brian and when two older boys are arrested, Paddy discovers one of the accused is her fiance's young cousin.

Once the major elements are introduced, the mystery isn't all that mysterious and I mostly had it figured it, which is possibly why Mina feeds facts out slowly to the reader. Except for the opening chapter which shows the child being murdered, a large portion of the first third of the book is filled with Paddy's family, life, the situation at work, and a parallel story about another Paddy Meehan, an infamous victim of what turned out to be gross injustice and with whom Paddy became fascinated while a young girl and the part of the reason she wants to be a journalist, and right wrongs.

She's a very likable character, but there were times I had to remind myself that she was a young woman in a restrictive time period and environment when it came to women working for a living and her strict Catholic upbringing was largely responsible, along with her weight problem, for her insecurities and low self-esteem. Because so many times I wanted to throttle her, to shake some sense into her, to tell her to trust her instincts. But gradually, Paddy does mature to some degree and I hope in subsequent books, she shows those gains in confidence.

I just wish there had been less of parallel story of the other Paddy Meehan, a petty criminal who was vilified for selling British secrets to the Soviets and later convicted of murder he claimed not to have committed. While Paddy's story influence the main character, one or two scenes, maybe a chapter would have been sufficient for a plotline having nothing to do with the current mystery except relating to how it influences young Paddy. Instead, we get chapters and interspersed scenes. Maybe Paddy, whose story is adapted from a real Paddy Meehan whom Mina once met and interviewed, deserved his own book. But here, it ended up distracting me from the real story.

Still, Mina shows real skill with words and she's crafted a character in Paddy, along with all her supporting characters, who takes on life and lingers on the memory.