Mina can turn a phrase extremely well, but that is not the point of this book. It is, and I mean this as a compliment, utterly unsentimental. It refuses to stare away. In Margo there is a character who is a scientific sceptic, whose family might have claimed to be psychics as well as be sex workers, and yet she is both the avenging angel and the good Samaritan. She is a character whom I hope will appear in future books, since she is as complex as the world, and as confused by it.
The Less Dead is much more than a brilliant thriller dripping with malevolence and male violence. It is a clear-eyed examination of female friendship, the powerplay within relationships and the “dark side” of masculinity. Denise Mina can make you gasp in horror and laugh out loud on the same page. She notices the “drowsy disgust of someone on Valium”, “the old-man skin of a kid who grew up hard”, and a dying spider plant in a hanging basket that resembles “a sad memory of fireworks”. This is crime writing of the highest order.