GODS AND BEASTS

Written by Denise Mina

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


GODS AND BEASTS
Orion
RRP: £12.99
Released: 5th July 2012
Hbk

A skewed angle on political corruption, and the more disturbing because the major villains are likeable; both beasts and gods have human qualities.

In this novel violence explodes in the first sentence with one victim (witness? accomplice?) in shock, clutching a terrified child whose grandfather has just been killed by an armed robber in a Post Office. For the police the witness is an enigma: heavily tattooed, living in a mansion, lying about a university background: a man from nowhere with not one accent but several, and "beast" inked on his neck: Glaswegian for paedophile.

Then there is the drugs courier stopped by two constables on the motorway with a fortune in used notes in the boot, and the cops: male and female, facing cutbacks, with families and mortgages, walk into a fiendish trap.

Finally there is the politician: ambitious, charismatic, wily but fundamentally weak, forced by his wife to summon spurious power and sue the newspaper which has accused him of an affair with a youthful employee. That he might get away with, nobly losing the case, but lurking in his excruciating past are perversions - with photographs - which, publicised, would destroy him. And the blackmailer is there to fill the niche: one so smooth that the reader cannot believe this courteous beast is capable of employing such disgusting enforcers - but he does.

This noir is shot through with scarlet and more than a glint of gold. Mina's research into Glasgow's criminal classes from the wastelands to the flashy heights has depicted all the squalor and dubious wealth of a modern city. The corruption is appalling but some balance is achieved (at least in fiction) for in the end, if the villains can decamp to the Costa del Sol, the "gods": minor, with minor flaws, do ultimately find a refuge across the sea in Mallorca. A raw exciting book and far too plausible.

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