Mina trades the glum intensity of her exposés of Glasgow’s seamy side (Slip of the Knife, 2007, etc.) for a police procedural that reveals strikingly similar results.
It might have been a routine home invasion. Two men in balaclavas, backed up by a third waiting in the car, push their way into a house, demand to speak to Bob, shoot a family member in the hand and, when they see Bob’s not there, leave with the head of the family, for whose safe return they demand £2 million as “payback. For Afghanistan.” Only the details don’t make any sense. Ugandan-born shopkeeper Aamir Anwar and his family apparently have nothing to do with Afghanistan, with anyone named Bob, or with the remotest likelihood of assembling such a staggering ransom. When Strathclyde CID gets the case, it goes not to DS Alex Morrow, who’s next in line as lead detective, but to her despised rival, DS Grant Bannerman, who shunts Alex into meaningless busywork and ignores the all-important lead she hands him. The heroine’s home life, if you can call it that, is as dispiriting as her professional life. She dreads heading home to the husband who tells her, “I hate who you make me.” After a whirlwind first movement, Mina settles in to what she does best—stripping her heroes and villains bare of every self-serving piety and protective illusion and exposing what’s beneath.
Little suspense, less mystery, but a startling exploration of characters who stubbornly refuse to stay in the boxes they’ve been assigned.