Denise Mina
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Buy *Conviction* by Denise Mina online

Denise Mina
Mulholland Books
384 pages
June 2019
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Despite an interesting premise, Conviction sort of lurches from note to note without a smooth thread on which to hang it all. Anna MacDonald's suburban life explodes when her husband, Hamish, leaves her. In a fit of desperation, she starts listening to the new true-crime podcast series called "Death and the Dana," about a sunken yacht and a murdered family. After years, the secret behind what actually happened to wealthy Leon Parker and his two children still remains unsolved. A girl called Amelia Fabricase was eventually charged and convicted of sinking the Dana. The police found evidence that Amelia had handled explosives, claiming that she set them in the engine room of the Dana before she got off. Amelia was traced, searched, interrogated and investigated while police paid scant attention to Leon.

After Anna listens to the story, she confronts her own links to Leon Parker, who she met at the famous Skibo castle where Leon was staying with dark, super-rich Gretchen Teigler. In a rather madcap story that moves from winter on the Cote d'Azur to busy London streets, Mina's heroine eventually runs back to Skibo with her neighbor, Fin, both desperately on the hunt for clues about Leon. Anna grows increasingly wrapped up in the podcast as it attempts to profile the people who died on board the Dana. The secrets behind their horrific deaths parallel the whereabouts of an antique diamond necklace, a present given to celebrate Leon's daughter Violette's coming of age.

Mina is a compelling writer, but much of this novel feels more work than it's worth. The climax comes so far into the book, but by then it hardly matters. Anna is a likable character, especially when she revels; she's been straddling worlds from a cocaine-addicted Italian supermodel's autobiography to a cold bathroom in Glasgow and the findings of an inquiry in which she is presumed dead and a "football fan was trying to make a point."

The podcast reveals more clues. Many believe the Dana was haunted. There are ghost sightings in the middle of the night; a small boy stands on the edge of the Dana's prow, his hair and clothes dripping wet. The police never asked whether Leon murdered his family? Was he ever a suspect? And what's the deal with Gretchen Teigler, who proves to be a more powerful and elusive figure than first thought? And why is this fabulously wealthy female nemesis after Anna?

The underlying mystery is sort of interesting, as are the dark themes of sexual abuse, murder, vigilantism and revenge. Though Mina's descriptions of Anna's circumstances are heartfelt, I found the book too disjointed and the plot too juvenile. The action sequences with Anna and Fin stretch far beyond the credible in what seems to be the only way that Mina is able to hang the plot.

Conviction features all the elements of Mina's incomparable craft--thickly drawn characters, authentic dialogue, and dense atmospherics--but this is not enough to make up for the endlessly meandering plot line. Mina took some risks in writing this novel, but it turns out to be a less than stellar reading experience.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2020

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