Exile review


Pages: I don’t know quite how I feel about this. Maureen O’Donnell broke my heart on the very last page of Garnethill. The things she & Leslie said about Siobhan were so bizarrely out of character & nonsensically cruel, I don’t think I’m ever going to get over how much I loathed the end of that book, but I remember really loving everything else about it up until that point & I had a hankering for a Scottish mystery novel where everybody says “wee hen” all the time. So here we are, with mixed results.

The mystery here is quite a bit more excellent than the last one & this gets three stars just for that, with special kudos for the beautiful little twist. I enjoyed the hell out of Maureen’s incessant whiskey drinking & endless smoking on her quest into the seedy, horrible underworld of London in order to figure out who killed Ann, but there’s something off about the tone which makes this strangely tiring to read. I was actually quite surprised to see that Maureen & Leslie both purport to hang out with Siobhan all the time, since they were both so keen to tell “needy people” – or you know, mentally damaged/sexually assaulted people, like her to “fuck off” (I’m never going to get over this). Although there’s nothing here that’s on par with that, Mina writes some strange & inconsistent characterizations, like the British police detective who is well-liked & great to work with specifically because she doesn’t make fun of her Scottish partner, then unexpectedly starts talking up all sorts of silly prejudicial stuff when she’s in Glasgow. I could have done without the detective angle altogether, to be frank. Most of the story is told from Maureen’s perspective, but there are a lot of abrupt shifts to someone else’s thoughts for one line before going back to Maureen, stuff that seems like it should’ve been (here’s my favorite word!) edited differently. Most of all, I can’t understand why there's so much intense, mutual distaste in Maureen’s circle of friends. The mystery is solved, Siobhan gets called a prick again, everyone hates Leslie’s boyfriend including Leslie, and I don’t know why any of these people bother hanging out together. Maybe in another two years I’ll have another hankering powerful enough to get me to read the last book in the series.

ISBN: The stunning new novel from the John Creasey Prize-winning author of Garnethill.

The last time Maureen O'Donnell saw Ann Harris, Ann was sitting in her office in the Glasgow Women's Shelter nursing two broken ribs and smelling of a long binge on cheap drink. Two weeks later Ann's mutilated body is found, washed up by the Thames. Maureen and her friend Leslie are the only people who seem worried about these events, and Leslie isn't telling what she knows. Maureen travels to London where she quickly finds herself embroiled in a seedy world of deceit and violence. Alone and threatened in a strange city, she must act fast to piece together Ann Harris's last hours and days - and to save herself from Ann's fate.

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I really like these books, and the fact that they're so dialogue-heavy makes them quick reads. The one problem I have with them is going to sound petty, and to be honest it might just be something I have to get over if I'm going to like mystery novels. Here's the thing: I'm smart; I'm reading about the case from 3 or 4 different points of view; I'm trying to think several steps ahead and examining each character as a likely suspect. Maureen O'Donnell is drinking herself sick morning, noon, and night, making every possible wrong move, almost getting herself killed, walking into danger and ignoring good advice, and generally being a lovable fuckup. And in a flash of insight she solves the mystery and I'm left scratching my head. What? With the amount of liquor she's belting back, she should barely be able to comprehend a bus map, let alone crack the case while my sober and crafty self is sitting in the dark.

Wow, after reading that back, I can see that I really am petty.

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