Review: The Less Dead by Denise Mina

Title: The Less Dead

Author: Denise Mina

Published: August 18th 2020, Mulholland Books

Status: Read August 2020, courtesy Mulholland Books/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

I loved Conviction so I was eager for the opportunity to read Denise Mina’s newest release, The Less Dead.

In the wake of her adoptive mother’s death, newly separated and pregnant. Glasgow GP Margo Dunlop, decides she wants to meet her biological family. She learns that her biological mother is long dead, but her Aunt Nikki, her mother’s older sister, is eager to connect with her. Their first meeting, in a small room at the reconciliation center, leaves Margo reeling when she is told that her mother, Susan, was a drug addicted prostitute who was brutally stabbed to death just months after Margo’s birth, and Nikki wants Margo’s help to solve her murder.

“It’s a cruel story to tell a stranger. Asking for things. Demanding things. It’s not her problem, all these long-ago things. She’s got enough going on.”

A compelling novel with a noir sensibility, The Less Dead sees Margo reluctantly drawn into her Aunt’s quest to hold someone responsible for Susan’s murder. Uncomfortable with Nikki’s intensity and her biological family’s unsavoury past, Margo’s commitment is half-hearted until she too becomes a target of vile, anonymous letters that appear to be from the killer.

“’When we get killed they call us the ‘less dead’, like we were never really alive to begin with.”

‘We’ refers to sex workers, drug addicts, migrants and the poor, women like Susan and Nikki, and ‘they’ the Glasgow police who routinely turned a blind eye when it came to crimes against women on the street. Susan was one of nine sex workers from the same small area murdered in the eighties. The women themselves feared a serial killer, the police were uninterested, Nikki later became convinced the murderer was a cop. Whomever it is, he has continued to taunt Nikki over the last thirty plus years, and now Margo has his attention and the tension rises as the killer grows increasingly obsessed.

“It doesn’t feel as if she’s looking at someone else at all but a younger self, a splinter Margo.”

Honestly I found Margo to be a frustrating character who, even with the recognition she was under an enormous amount of stress, often made inexplicable decisions. However, I was impressed with the way the author explored the contrast between Margo’s adopted middle class life, and that of her struggling biological family through her. Margo may look almost exactly like her late mother but she had no understanding of life she lead, or the environment she grew up in, and the way in which she is forced to confront her own prejudice, assumptions and authority is intelligent and thought-provoking.

“… we made being outsiders the thing we were. They couldn’t break us or make us lie. We knew who we were.”

It was Nikki who I found the most interesting and authentically portrayed, along with Lizzy and Susan (even though she is not actually present). I felt sorry about the hardships the women experienced, but never found them pitiable, in fact I admired them.

Though not a fast-paced book, The Less Dead is thrilling, with a pervasive sense of unease and a steady increase in tension. Gritty, insightful and absorbing, it’s only the character of Margo that unfortunately let it down for me.

++++++

Available from Hachette: Mulholland Books

Or from your preferred retailer via Book Depository I Indiebound I Booko

Also by Denise Mina reviewed at Book’d Out

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Aug 20, 2020 @ 12:53:08

    Great review, Shelleyrae. I’ve read some (not all) of Denise Mina’s work, so I will probably read this at some stage.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. kaysreadinglife
    Aug 21, 2020 @ 04:09:17

    I’ve been curious about this one and actually already own Conviction (unread as yet). I’ll probably try to read it because the whole storyline intrigues me. Thanks for sharing about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Karen (@teamsheltie)
    Aug 21, 2020 @ 05:11:06

    It seems like you found enough to like despite having issues with Margo.

    I do enjoy thought provoking reads.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Melliane
    Aug 21, 2020 @ 05:59:27

    Oh that sounds good and I confess that I didn’t even know about this one

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Marg
    Aug 21, 2020 @ 21:16:39

    I read Mina’s earliest books, but it has now been many years since I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  6. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundaySalon #SundayPost | book'd out
  7. carhicks
    Aug 24, 2020 @ 01:47:09

    I have not read anything by this author, but it sounds like she has many admirers. This sounds like a tough read, always hard to reconcile with a biological family that has so many issues when you have lived a good life in an adoptive one. Great review Shelleyrae.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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