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by Denise Mina
Carroll & Graf, April 2001
352 pages
ISBN: 086706120

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Garnethill is the story of a woman a with mental illness able to function in this world, but not entirely cured of her problems. She understands and copes with her depression, but she is frustrated by her family's unwillingness to understand the causes and their constant fear that she is "going mental" again. She was sexually abused by her father and no one in the family truly believes her. Sometimes she doubts herself as well.

One night she went out with her friend Leslie and got drunk, blowing off her therapy session. She staggered home and into her bedroom and passed out. The next morning when she went into her living room she found her lover tied to a chair with his throat cut. He had almost certainly been there all night.

The police, of course, have trouble believing that she did not murder Douglas. She had been ready to dump him and had just discovered he was married. If not Maureen perhaps the murderer was her brother Liam who was a drug dealer. We see all this from the limited third person point of view of Maureen who finds the police unsympathetic and hostile and doesn't mind standing up for herself when they attack her.

We get a rare glimpse into the mind of a person with mental illness who is able to survive, but who sees the world slightly differently from most of us. She copes with her family and her friends and gets bitterly angry when she learns of the abuse of mental patients. She feels the need to find the murderer herself, certain that the police will not look very hard. And she plans to mete out justice to him in her own way when she finds him.

There is not a single character in this book whom I liked very well. Perhaps Siobhan, another mental patient, is the most sympathetic, but I did not like her. Maureen is coarse and hardened by the life she leads. Leslie is not much better. Liam preys on weaker people. And Maureen's family sees events entirely in terms of how they will be affected.

This is, however, a compelling book. Despite my lack of sympathy for any person in it, I could not stop reading it. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. I was watching disaster unfold, I did not want to see that disaster, and yet I could not stop looking at it. The world of blue collar Glasgow is carefully and intensively described. It is not a pleasant world and I would not enjoy spending time in it. There is no light relief, little beauty, little joy. This is still a very good book.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, June 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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