Gods and Beasts
Denise Mina
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Gods and Beasts
Denise Mina
Back Bay Books
352 pages
February 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Mina brings Glasgow's Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow back for another challenging investigation, this time assigned to the shooting death of Joe Lyons at a Post Office robbery just before Christmas. Apparently recognizing the armed robber, although only his eyes are visible through a balaclava, Lyons pushes his grandson into the proximity of a stranger, assisting the perpetrator in gathering the money before being cut down in a hail of bullets. Not only doesn't this scenario make sense, but the deceased's family members have little to offer when questioned by authorities, Lyons’ wife included.

In a country where police corruption and criminal activities are endemic, if not cooperative, Morrow faces an uphill battle, one complicated by a lack of evidence, internal department problems and the country's current political climate. As expected, the novel takes its shape from the colorful and eccentric characters involved, each private drama adding another piece to the puzzle until the whole plot is revealed. This is Mina's style: combining people and actions to create tension and an eventual collision, overlapping motives and tight-knit relationships linking a network of players, the murder at the Post Office only the tip of the iceberg.

Martin Pavel, the stranger left to protect the grandson during the robbery, is an anomaly in both time and place, a young man covered in obscure tattoos who injects himself into the investigation with the best of intentions. Gangster Danny McGrath, Morrow's half-brother, hovers around the edges of every current investigation, tied by one means or another to every special interest, with deep and expanding criminal roots in the community. Then there is Kenny Gallagher, a savvy politician running for a top union position, desperate to hide a history of sexual peccadilloes from a wife who is prepared to leave him and ruin his career if he doesn't tell her the truth.

A devoted and skilled detective, Morrow has twin sons and a husband waiting at home to offer a nightly respite from a complicated case. Her problems are exacerbated by a moment's temptation and a bad decision by Detective Sergeant Tamsin Leonard and Detective Sergeant George Wilder, an act that may compromise a critical ongoing investigation into organized crime. Sleep-deprived but unwilling to lose a quarry that is now within her grasp, Morrow deals with far-reaching police corruption, a tenacious and creative criminal network that has infiltrated every level of society, and solving a murder that is undermined by a shocking betrayal in the ranks of the men and women on whom she relies.

Both social commentary and mystery, Mina's novel hums with Glasgow's particular energy and the personalities and conflicts of modern life, corruption threatening the fabric of society, greed inspiring even more ingenious schemes to rob and defraud. As Aristotle wrote, "Those who live outside the city walls and are self-sufficient, are either Gods or Beasts." In spite of Morrow's efforts, Glasgow suffers from a surfeit of beasts and too few gods.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2013

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