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    EXILE by Denise Mina

    Carroll & Graf, 2001

    Maureen O'Donnell can barely cope with the depression that clings to her. Her alcoholic mother, still in denial about the incest that has damaged Maureen so strongly, nags her to participate in family activities when all Maureen wants to do is survive. When Maureen's friend Leslie asks her to help investigate a potential wife-beater, Maureen feels compelled into action despite the depression that continues to oppress her. She cannot believe that the suspect would hurt anyone, let alone beat his wife, but Ann had accused him. Now Ann's body has been discovered horribly mutilated and murdered.

    Although Ann was from Glasgow, Scotland, she was murdered in London. Maureen and Leslie discover that she had travelled often between London and Glasgow and that she had always been in debt. Could she have been involved with serious criminals? Maureen must overcome her depression enough to go to London and investigate London's drug underground.

    Denise Mina has written a convincing depiction of the working class and underclass in contemporary Scotland. Far from the upper crust 'cozy' most American's associate with British mystery, Mina tells a gritty story where even the good-guys use drugs, get drunk, and sometimes take justice into their own hands. Maureen is a tough woman with a chip on her shoulder and a terrible sense of insecurity about herself, her relationships with men, and her friendships.

    After a slow start establishing Maureen's debilitating depression, EXILE picks up the pace. Mina writes engaging dialogue with enough of a touch of Scottish dialect to be convincing without any attempt to overwhelm the reader. Readers may initially find it hard to identify with Maureen. I recommend sticking with it. EXILE provides plenty of payoff for the investment.

    Three Stars

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