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by Denise Mina
Mulholland, June 2019
384 pages
ISBN: 0316528501

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Denise Mina is full of surprises. The author of the gritty Garnethill Trilogy, the historical Paddy Meehan newsroom series, and the Alex Morrow police procedurals has also written graphic novels, comic books, and most recently a dark retelling of a true crime, THE LONG DROP. CONVICTION has her usual distinctive Scottish narrative voice, but is otherwise a departure, a wild globe-trotting romp with a serious side, funny and sharp as a knife.

Sophie Bukaran has learned that lying is the best policy. She told the truth once, and it cost her everything. So now she's Anna McDonald and she has a picture-perfect life, married to a wealthy man, with two darling daughters, a lovely old house, and a need to rise early and listen to true crime podcasts to escape the stifling surface tension of her marriage. It all comes apart spectacularly when two things happen. First, she realizes that the podcast she's started to listen to describes the mysterious death at sea of a man she once knew and liked. Stranger still, his murder might have been ordered by the woman who threatened her own life and made her go into hiding. Second, her husband announces their marriage is over, she'll have to leave the lovely old home, he's off to Spain with their children and the woman he loves who just happens to be Anna's best friend.

While she's reeling from the destruction of her carefully-constructed life, she continues listening to the podcast that raises questions she can't leave alone. Had the woman who had ruined Sophie Bukaran's life by countering her truth with a vicious lie also had her old friend killed? What really happened on that boat? The podcast doesn't have answers, so she decides to find them herself.

But she's saddled with her former best friend's husband, Fin Cohen, a famous musician who is struggling with anorexia. While her instinct is to keep a low profile, he broadcasts a public image through social media and before long her quest is becoming as public as the podcast that started it all. Fin and Sophie/Anna travel to an exclusive retreat for the wealthy in the highlands, to France, and to Italy in search of answers, always just one step ahead of thugs who don't want them to uncover the truth.

While readers could enjoy the book purely for the ping-pong plot, the characters are marvelously real and Anna is often laugh-out-loud funny. But this treat also raises compelling questions about how we determine what's true in an age of social media, the attraction of true crime reconstructions of events, and the potential for trolls to be roused and marshalled against women of conviction.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, June 2019

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