The less dead

Denise Mina

Book - 2020

"She thought she was finding her birth mother. Now she's searching for a killer. Dr. Margo Dunlop is at a crossroads. Her adoptive mom just passed away, and Margo misses her so much she can't begin to empty the house-or, it seems, get her brother on the phone. Not to mention she's newly single, secretly pregnant, and worried about her best friend's dangerous relationship. In an effort to cheer herself up she goes in search of her birth mother. Instead she finds Nikki, he...r mother's sister. Aunt Nikki isn't what Margo expects, and she brings upsetting news: Margo's mother is dead. Worse, she was murdered years ago, and her killer is still at large-and sending Nikki threatening letters. Margo is torn. Should she stay out of this mess, or try to find justice? But then Margo receives a letter, too. Someone out there has been waiting and watching, and in Margo sees the spitting image of her mother..."--

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MYSTERY/Mina Denise
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Suspense fiction
Mystery fiction
Detective and mystery fiction
Thrillers (Fiction)
New York : Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company 2020.
First North American Edition
Item Description
"Published simultaneously in Great Britain by Harvill Secker, an imprint of Penguin Random House"--Title page verso.
Physical Description
341 pages ; 25 cm
Main Author
Denise Mina (author)
Review by Booklist Review

After her adoptive mother's death, Glaswegian physician Margo Dunlop sees her life dissolving in a paralyzing vacuum. Focused for so long on caregiving, she now views the process of sorting out her mother's estate as impossible, and she can't bring herself to tell her ex that she's pregnant. In an impulsive bid to ground herself and reconcile her ambivalence toward motherhood, Margo makes contact with her birth family. Her maternal aunt, Nikki, alternately angry about and awestruck over Margo's success, reveals a tragedy: she and Margo's mother, Susan, supported themselves as sex workers, and Susan was murdered shortly after Margo's birth. Margo tries to retreat after Nikki attempts to recruit Margo's help to prove that a dirty cop murdered Susan. But when Margo receives threatening letters revealing ugly details about Susan's murder, she turns to the brave, unrepentant Nikki, who becomes her only ally. Susan's killer lurks, enticed by Margo's resemblance to her mother. The menacing atmosphere of Nikki and Susan's gritty Glasgow--a side of the city previously unknown to Margo--effectively supports the novel's themes of reconciliation, class divides, and violence against women. Mina is a master of the genre, with wide appeal, especially for those who appreciate character-driven stories with literary weight, like those of Tana French, Karin Slaughter, and Laura Lippman.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this disappointing psychological thriller set in Glasgow from Edgar finalist Mina (Conviction), physician Margo Dunlop discovers undelivered letters in her late mother's belongings that lead her to Nikki, the sister of Margo's previously unknown birth mother, Susan, and the information that Susan's murder soon after Margo's birth, while Susan and Nikki were both working as prostitutes, remains unsolved. Margo, terrified after getting a threatening letter from a person claiming to be Susan's killer that's similar to ones Nikki has received for years, is drawn into Nikki's world as she seeks answers, while also dealing with her best friend, Lilah, and Lilah's increasingly abusive boyfriend, and considering whether to tell her own ex-boyfriend that she's pregnant. Mina skips most of the everyday details of Margo's career, using her identity as a doctor only as a vague plot device, and leans too heavily into the sordid details of life on the streets. A new violent death trails away without ongoing impact. This garish story offers shock without substance under the thinnest guise of compassion. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (Aug.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Physician Margo Dunlop has a lot going on when she first meets her birth family. Her adoptive mother, Janette, has died, leaving Margo just days to clean out Janette's house (where she found hidden letters from her birth aunt, Nikki Brodie, asking for her help). Margo also just broke up with her partner, Joe, then discovered that she's pregnant. Margo learns from Nikki that her birth mother, Susan Brodie, a prostitute who got clean of drugs during her pregnancy, was murdered at the age of 19, months after Margo was born, becoming the fourth of nine prostitutes killed in Glasgow during that time. Now Nikki wants Margo's help in finding the murderer. Initially ambivalent about having a relationship with Nikki, Margo starts receiving anonymous letters from the same person, with an intimate knowledge of Susan's murder, who has been writing Nikki and is now watching her. VERDICT Mina's (Conviction; The Long Drop) concern with the effects of class on individual lives is evident, as Margo learns about sex workers, coming to admire Susan as she ferrets out the reason for her death. As the plot gains speed to a startling and abrupt end, readers will be left agasp and wanting more. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/19.]--Michele Leber, Arlington, VA

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Finding out about the long-ago murder of her teenage mother fills a woman's life with terror in this riveting story. The latest from the prolific Mina is a stand-alone novel. Glasgow doctor Margo Dunlop is grieving the death of her adoptive mother and the breakup of her relationship with the eccentric but affable Joe when she learns she is pregnant. She goes in search of her biological mother and drops right into a nightmare. Months after Margo's birth and adoption, her mother was brutally murdered. Susan Brodie was a 19-year-old sex worker and former junkie, making her one of the "less dead" of the title, victims the police shrug off as disposable. Margo hears the grisly story when she meets her aunt, Nikki, a survivor of the same desperate circumstances that killed her sister. Nikki might be sober now, but she still has an addict's deviousness. She is also sure she knows who murdered Susan--a corrupt cop named Martin McPhail--and she urges Margo, who has the money and status Nikki lacks, to help bring him down. The killer, Nikki says, still sends her threatening letters with objects related to Susan's murder. Margo has barely begun to absorb this disturbing information when she starts getting such letters herself. As she struggles to figure out whom to trust, she's also dealing with the nasty breakup between her best friend, flighty Lilah, and her obsessive ex, Richard, who is Joe's brother. Margo meets Jack Robertson, a slickly charming true-crime writer, and Diane Gallagher, an impressive retired police detective, who both know more about Susan's death than they're saying. Mina is matchless at building suspicion and creeping dread. Susan might have been a victim, but the novel is filled with strong, resourceful women who won't let her life and death render her "less." A bold and bracing twist on the fallen-woman-as-victim story. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.