Book Review: Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza
Book Review: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Book Review: Conviction by Denise Mina

Favorite quotes:
A good podcast can add a glorious multi-world texture to anything.

Grief is a scar. The tissue is tough and when it’s cut again, it heals poorly.

This might be heresy to say out loud in this day and age, but I confess: I don’t love thrillers. I know! Everyone seems to love books like Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, In a Dark, Dark Wood; The Wife Between Us—books, in other words, with unreliable female narrators. Everyone loves those right now, but—and maybe it’s because everyone loves them right now—they just annoy me. I guess it’s partly because frustration is not what I want during my reading experience. Partly because I tend to resist doing what everyone else loves, even when it comes to books. Partly because the things the characters—flawed, but fairly normal characters—experience in a thriller seem so unlikely. (Which is dumb because I don’t have that problem with fantasy or science fiction, which are also full of unlikely experiences.)


ConvictionSometimes The Universe brings a book to my attention more than once. It if The Universe does this three or four times, I say back to it: OK, Universe, I’ll read it. This was the case with the book Conviction by Denise Mina. I noticed it on a recommended reading list from a publisher, and then in another email from Book Riot. Then, the very next day, I noticed it—because its cover is so distinctive—on our New Books display at the library. Three times in less than a week?

I checked it out. And then a few days later I spent one of my most pleasant sick days reading it, in between waves of severe abdominal pain.

And while it is exactly what you expect from a thriller (unreliable, seemingly-average narrator trying to figure out a possible murder), I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think I liked it because it’s not only about the thriller experiences, but about personal damage and how we try to cope with it, and about reading as an escape mechanism, and maybe even because part of it is set in Scotland. Also because the writing is just so good.


I’m not spoiling the story by telling you this: It starts with our main character, Anna, discovering that her husband is having an affair with her best friend. The adulterous couple tells her that they are taking her two daughters to Spain so she can have some time to clear out and find a new place to live; her husband gives her a bunch of money to help in this process. There is shouting and yelling and then they leave Anna alone. She contemplates suicide but instead continues listening to the true-crime podcast she’d started that morning, about a seemingly-haunted ship where a father and his two adult children were probably murdered.

She returns to the podcast partly because it’s an escape but mostly because it mentions the names of two people she knew in the past, Leon Parker and Gretchen Teigler.

She continues, though, contemplating suicide, until someone knocks on the door. It’s Fin, the husband of her best friend who is cheating with her husband, who happens to be a semi-famous rock star who is suffering from anorexia, and they set off across parts of western Europe to figure out the mystery in the podcast.

One thing that bugged me about this story is how Anna and Fin are able to figure things out that no one else has noticed about this mystery. Partly they can do it because of their life histories: Anna, who is not who she seems and whose real story unfolds as the current one does, knows things about both Leon Parker and Gretchen Teigler that the other investegators couldn’t, and Fin’s fame gives them access they wouldn’t already have. But partly it’s luck and coincidence.

I think I’ve decided, during the writing of this blog post, that maybe I’m a reluctant thriller reader because they require that you suspend your disbelief in very specific ways that I have a hard time doing. Our main characters having ah-ha moments that no one else has had so far—such as, who took the photo of Leon Parker and his two kids if there was no one else on the boat, which is a turning point and which only Fin thinks of—is a thing my mind refuses to suspend.

At any rate, adventures ensue, including some Russian/Yugoslavian hit men with wild stories they tell in a train, and in the end the mystery is solved.

Wait—I’m really not writing this review as if I liked the book. But I really liked the book. Mostly because I liked the two main characters, Anna and Fin, and because the ways they are unreliable and damaged are ways that resonate with me.

And the structure of the book, which only becomes entirely clear in the last paragraphs.

And how it points out how social media in all of its aspects influences our lives in negative and positive ways.

I’m really, really glad I listened to The Universe and read this one!



I'm not a thriller reader either. I might read this one though, after reading your review.

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