Published June 2019 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: checked out from my local library
The day Anna McDonald's quiet, respectable life exploded started off like all the days before: Packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.
Reeling, desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people's problems are much better than one's own — a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy. But this case actually is Anna's problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she's taken great pains to leave behind. And she is convinced that she knows what really happened.
Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop, a meddling neighbor intervenes, and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened — and they're in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, Anna goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.
Some months back, one of my bookclub members recommended this book based on an NPR review. It's not my habit to add a book to our list but if Maureen Corrigan recommends a book, I'm prone to believe it's worth reading. I'm not sure I've ever agreed with her more than I do about this book.
Anna has created an ordinary, albeit upper-middle-class, existence as a housewife in the suburbs, raising her beloved daughters. It's all blown apart one morning. First she listens to that podcast and finds that a friend from her past has died and another name has resurfaced, a name that causes her past to come crashing into her present. Then a persistent knocking at her door turns out to be her best friend who has, it turns out, not come to pick her up for yoga but to run away with Anna's husband. To say that Anna does not handle that that revelation well would be a major understatement. She is, in fact, a bloody mess on the entryway floor, contemplating suicide, when Fin appears at the door. The two soon find themselves both trying to find out what really happened to Anna's friend, Leon, and running for their lives.
All of that summary happens in the first couple of chapters and Mina never lets off the accelerator. I wanted to set everything else in my life aside and do nothing but read this book. And, guys, I did. not. see. that. ending. coming. If you read this and you do, please don't tell me. I don't want to find out that it was something everyone else saw coming. Not only is this a great story but Mina manages to hit a lot of heavy themes along the way, rape, addiction, eating disorders, and the damage caused by social networks.
Through all of that, she is weaving all manners of storytelling into the book - Anna's podcasts, books, folk tales, alibis, false leads, and lies. Anna even recalls a conversation she had with her friend, Leon, who died on the yacht, about the Arabian Nights, which he called simple children's tales.
“I was appalled. I went off on a rant about the ‘Arabian Nights,’ the collective nature of it, how it created a whole world through accretive storytelling: layers of lives lived simultaneously, intersecting. And how it bounced from genre to genre, the stories were funny and brutal and romantic and tragic like life. . . . It was produced before stories could only be one thing, before the form was set.”I do love meta writing and Mina lives up to Scheherazade with all of the stories she has woven into this one book.
As much as I loved this book, and even though I thought the ending was satisfying in many ways, I also felt like it was a bit too easy. The rest of the book was so damn complex and there was a part of me that really wanted the ending to be just as twisty.
The Washington Post reviewer said "Denise Mina is one of the leading practitioners of what's called Tartan Noir: the melding of American hard-boiled detective fiction with the atmosphere and local color slang of Scotland." I've never heard of Tartan Noir but if this is what Tartan Noir is, I'll definitely be looking for more books that fall into that genre.