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THE LAST BREATH
by Denise Mina
Bantam Press, August 2007
352 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0593051432


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's 1990 and Paddy Meehan's career is on the up. Last time we saw her, she was struggling for a foothold in the competitive and sexist world of newspapers. Now she has a reputation as the columnist to read and her private life is almost unrecognisable now.

Paddy has a posh car, a flat, a baby and it looks like she's finally going places. But then best friend and former lover Terry Patterson is found dead in a ditch, shot through the head, and police reckon he was the victim of an IRA assassination. He's left Paddy a house and boxes of notes, including those relating to the story he was working on when he died.

And course Paddy starts asking questions, putting herself in the path of some very unsavoury people, and before too long realises that she may be next in the firing line.

Denise Mina took a huge risk by showing her hand with Paddy's fate in this five-book series. But of course we don't know the how, where and exactly when. And the quality of the writing ensures that the appearance of each book is an event to be anticipated eagerly.

For someone with a reputation for unearthing darkness beneath familiar settings, this series has a slightly softer feel to it, including some moments of humour and some beguiling innocence from Paddy. Don't get me wrong, it's still gritty and bleak in places, but there's optimism there for our dogged heroine.

And Paddy is an appealing main character. She's an ordinary working class girl who is clawing her way up the professional and social ladder by persistence and sheer hard graft. Paddy's no glamorous hackette with lacquered hair and polished nails . . . She's someone we all recognise, particularly when she scoffs packets of biscuits in times of stress!

These books excel on every level the location (Glasgow), the time (the 1980s and 1990s in Margaret Thatcher's Britain), the industry (pre-new technology newspapers) and in the complex and varied cast who develop with each new appearance.

Mina's series is rapidly turning into a sophisticated piece of writing which traces a social history not just of newspapers but also of the UK. The books are simply outstanding.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, July 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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