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by Denise Mina
Little, Brown, August 2004
320 pages
ISBN: 0316735922

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Denise Mina is one of those writers I've been meaning to get around to reading for aeons. But, having read DECEPTION (published in the UK as SANCTUM), she's going to have to work hard to persuade me it's worth rescuing the Garnethill trilogy from the bottom of the teetering pile of books on my landing.

Lachlan Harriot's comfy life is about to fall apart. His psychologist wife Suzie has been sent to prison for murdering a patient, Andrew Gow, and his wife Donna. Gow was a serial killer and Suzie had been appointed to work with him. But what was behind the phonecall that sent Suzie careering off into deepest Scotland and culminated in her being found covered with blood near the scene of the crime.

I find it hard to articulate what I think about this book. Mina is clearly a very skilled writer, and she kept me reading to the end. But when I got there, it was the equivalent of the shrug. I didn't care about the characters and in the end I didn't much care what happened. And I also had the nagging feeling that the ending was too neat, too pat and too much of an anti-climax.

It comes back, though, to the issue of whether you can be engaged by a book with unlikable characters all down the line. Lachlan's a creep and a sleazebag who doesn't even have to exert himself much as a househusband, as the family have an au pair. The book is locked tight into his point of view, and his outlook on everyone else is less than complimentary. And what we see of Suzie isn't particularly endearing.

The net result of all of this was that by the time I got to the obligatory twist in the ending, I wasn't much fussed about what happened.

Oh, and why do US publishers feel the need to change the perfectly accessible titles of UK books, and also go through and Americanise spelling? I don't expect US books to be translated for me. Credit the readership with a little intelligence, please!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, October 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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