After her award-winning Garnethill trilogy, Mina’s challenge is to create yet another compelling heroine, in this case copyboy-cum-journalist Paddy Meehan, an overweight young woman determined to make her mark as a legitimate reporter for the Scottish Daily News. Currently relegated to the most menial job at the paper, Paddy remains alert for opportunity.
Recently engaged to Sean Ogilvy, Paddy struggles with the Catholicism beloved of her family yet so foreign since her childhood, as uncomfortable as a pair of ill-fitting brogans and equally as burdensome to a young woman who is ready to tackle the world without the restrictions of her upbringing.
But there are two Paddy Meehans in this novel, one a nearly mythical figure from the 1960s, the original Paddy released after seven years incarceration for a murder he didn’t commit, spending the rest of his life bitterly recounting unfair treatment at the hands of authorities to anyone who will listen.
It is Paddy Meehan’s story that wedges in Paddy’s consciousness as she learns of the recent killing of three-year old Brian Wilcox by two boys aged ten and eleven, one of the boys a cousin to Paddy’s fiancé, Sean. When the arrests are made too quickly and blame assigned by an outraged public, Paddy decides to dig deeper into the particulars of the case, making the mistake of sharing her interest with another reporter, Heather Allen, who promptly steals the story.
Shunned by an angry family for a story she didn’t write, Paddy comforts herself with food. While rummaging through past cases in the newspaper’s archives, she actually uncovers a slim lead that may hold the key to Baby Brian’s murder and another, eight years before. Paddy throws herself into the case, heedless of the consequences of her persistent questions, haunting broken-down tenements where crime breeds more crime and survival belongs to the quick.
The investigation opens up a whole new world for Paddy. Nurtured by her ambition, she has thought only to prevail over limited circumstances, hardly aware of those who endure narrow lives dictated by poverty, the desperate circumstances of the slum-dwellers an affront to Paddy’s sensibilities: “The possibility that suffering could defeat people disturbed Paddy.”
Following genuine reporter’s instincts, Paddy plunges into unexpected danger, treading ethical missteps, quietly pursued by a killer determined to silence her once and for all. Bumbling through the murder investigation with an eye to helping Sean’s wee cousin, Paddy learns some harsh lessons but is surprisingly equal to the challenge, if somewhat worse for wear, another spunky Mina heroine shouting her truth to a bleak Glasgow sky.