Denise Mina
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Buy *Exile* by Denise Minaonline

Denise Mina
Back Bay Books
448 pages
October 2007
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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The second novel in Mina’s excellent trilogy (Garnethill, Resolution) is filled with menace, protagonist Maureen O’Donnell’s personal struggles to overcome childhood abuse, conflict with a dysfunctional family and an assortment of eccentric and miscreants who people her world.

Barely recovered from a nervous breakdown, the brutal murder of her married boyfriend in her apartment, and a long, disturbing dance with the local detectives who targeted her as a suspect, Maureen is gratified by the hospitalization of the culprit: Angus Farrell, her former therapist, who committed heinous abuses on helpless women in his care.

Mina’s prose is sharp and bitter as the Glasgow wind: “The morning dragged on like a stranger’s funeral.” Maureen is her usual hard-living, hard-drinking self, a burning fag clutched in her fingers from dawn ‘til dusk.

Wishing only for a normal life, Maureen contends with an alcoholic mother who denies her daughter’s abuse at the hands of her father and the knowledge that her father has returned to Glasgow, Michael O’Donnell no longer a specter but a reality. Working in a battered women’s shelter with longtime mate, Leslie, has helped; meanwhile Maureen finds solace in drunkenness, avoiding a life that is closing in on her.

Still, this girl attracts trouble like flypaper. Before long, she is involved in the disappearance of Ann Harris, the wife of Leslie’s cousin Jimmy. A heavy drinker, Ann has fallen on hard times, leaving her desperate husband to care for their four young boys, his circumstances worsening by the day. Maureen never believes that this pitiful man could have harmed his wife.

Learning that Ann has a sister in London, Maureen pounces on the excuse to get away from Glasgow and her oppressive troubles. When the police discover the mutilated corpse of a woman wearing Ann’s bracelet, the case becomes a murder. Tracking Ann’s movements from Glasgow to London, Maureen is soon out of her depth.

Lost in a haze of violent drug traffickers, hard men and ubiquitous junkies, Maureen ignores the escalating danger at her own peril. She is treading treacherous waters in this foreign city, an outsider with too many questions - the kind that can get her killed: “She was frightened and she hated everyone. She wanted to go home.” After a brutal attack, Maureen’s tough veneer cracks. She returns to Glasgow determined to regain control of her life, no matter the consequences.

One of the most fascinating characters in contemporary crime fiction, Maureen and her unusual pals expose the world of Glasgow that exists beneath the surface, the daily struggles to survive, an endemic evil that simmers beneath society’s façade, feeding on helpless and willing alike. Determined not to be a victim, Maureen throws herself into Ann’s cause while carrying the burden of a painful past and the incarcerated Farrell’s threatening letters. In Exile, Maureen’s demons are nearly out of control. Still, she hopes for a better future, knowing all the while there is no happy ending.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2007

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