The ditzy first-person narrator, Anna McDonald, is deeply unhappy. Hamish, her husband, has, without warning, run off with her married best friend Estelle. In her anger and distress Anna turns to true-crime podcasts... Anna’s animated narration is fun, and the solution absorbing.
Ever since Serial took off, the true crime podcast has been popular. In Conviction, Denise Mina uses this as a starting point for a novel of suspense and hidden secrets. While suffering from depression, Anna McDonald becomes addicted to a podcast called Death and the Dana, about a murder that took place on a yacht in Saint-Martin. With a shock she recognises the name of one of the victims... It’s difficult to make the sustained spoken voice come to life on the page, and these chapters don’t have the punch of the rest of the book. But this is an original idea carried out well. Mina’s storytelling is always vivid and exciting, and Anna is a complex, well-rounded figure — both fascinating and irritating in equal measure. And she fights hard when it matters.
It is clear from the very start of Denise Mina’s Conviction (Harvill Secker) quite how much fun she – and her readers – are about to have. “There has to be a reason to tell the truth. I stopped some time ago and, let me tell you, it was great,” her narrator, Anna McDonald, tells us, going on to insist, not all that plausibly: “But I’m telling you the truth in this book.”
[Mina's] newest novel might be described as a fictional non-fiction. It is a thriller that often evokes an almost Hitchcock-like air of paranoia, doubt, double identities, sexual frisson, gadding around over several countries from Fort William to Venice, with sinister train journeys and mordant wit... One cliché of reviewing is to call something “more than a crime novel”. I have always found that patronising and simplistic... The manner in which Mina achieves this is in crafting a novel which, like its predecessor, The Long Drop, is fascinated with story above all else... Another cliché, particularly about writing from Scotland, is the prevalence of the double, from Hogg’s Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner to Stevenson’s Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. Mina does tap into this – there are many people who aren’t who they say they are and who have turned pretence into performance art – but what struck me in this book was a very strange analogy: Jane Austen’s Emma... This is a novel that ponders visibility and invisibility. There is the public realm of clamour and the strange privacy of the earbuds.
I've long been a fan of Denise Mina's writing but this is a corker even by her standards. This begins in Glasgow with Anna discovering that her husband is about to run off with her best friend, taking Anna's two daughters with them. Numb with shock she decides to blot out reality by listening to a true-crime podcast which concerns a sunken yacht in the Med, multiple murders, even a ghost-and then Anna realises she knew one of the victims in a past life and decides she has to investigate. Compelling doesn't even begin to cover it.