Conviction involves mysteries inside mysteries.

Once upon a time mystery novels traveled straight lines through a minefield of obstacles and threats to a simple, straightforward conclusion. The detective, the victim, or some other investigator would confront a puzzle and, in the end, solve it. But bestselling mystery authors don’t write books that way anymore. Instead of a single puzzle, usually involving a single crime (or a series of them), the protagonist faces a baffling array of complications. There are mysteries within mysteries. This often involves not one crime, but several. And not one story, but two or three. And then there are those that involve stories within stories within stories. Welcome to Denise Mina‘s mind-twisting new novel, Conviction.

Mina’s protagonist is Anna McDonald. Except she’s not. She’s a Glasgow housewife trapped in a difficult marriage with a wealthy, older lawyer named Hamish and two young daughters. (Her “relationship was in its death throes.”) Except that’s not all she is, either. Her name is really Sophie Bukaran. And at some point in the past, something really, really bad happened to Sophie. Which is why she’s been on the run ever since.

Conviction by Denise Mina (2019) 385 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)

Mysteries within mysteries, starting with a true crime podcast

It’s going to be a while before we learn exactly why Sophie fled her old life and fashioned a new one. But on the same terrible day that her husband leaves her for her best friend, taking the children along, her old life comes crashing back into the present when she listens to a true crime podcast. Suddenly, Sophie is off and running in an attempt to unravel a mystery involving an old friend named in the podcast. And that leads her inexorably into coming to grips with the larger mystery involving Sophie herself. Mina takes us on a rollercoaster ride from Glasgow to Venice to Paris. There’s nothing straightforward about these mysteries inside mysteries. But it’s fun all the way.

For additional reading

I recent read and enjoyed The Long Drop by Denise Mina. I reviewed the novel at A courtroom drama set in Glasgow in the 50s.

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