Paddy Meehan is shite. Or rather, she feels like shite after she’s eaten a half a bag of lemon bonbons, which she’d bought for her mother to eat on their way to see The All Priests Holy Roadshow, and she feels like shite after she goes a round, tumbling with a polis in his very own car just down the block from her parents’ house (and when the next day the whole force seems to know), and wholeheartedly feels like shite after a sadistic thug attempts to blow up her partner on the graveyard shift at the Scottish Daily News.
The thing is, Paddy just wants to do her job—be a true journalist, break important stories, and pay the bills since she’s the only member of her family who is employed. This is the gist of Denise Mina’s The Dead Hour (Little, Brown and Company, 2006).
It’s 1984 in Glascow, Scotland. One out of ten people are unemployed. Catholics are still the underdog (though less oppressed than a decade earlier). Women are still called wee lady, pet, stupid cow, and the c-word, and most of the good ole boys in the newsroom laugh when a bloke suggests that Paddy should make herself useful by bending over and giving them somewhere to put their pens. Thankfully, a number of men in this story do see Paddy as something other than an object, regarding her as a woman of intelligence, moxy, bravery, and warranted ambition. These men balance out the crudeness of the others, a crudeness that is sometimes funny, as when we can laugh at stereotypes even if they are cast against us, but an attitude which eventually grates the nerves. The two beautiful women who are embroiled in the crime and mystery find the benefits of their beauty are no longer paying dividends while Paddy finds that despite her extra poundage, lack of will power, and moments of self-loathing, she is seen, by some, as a woman, sexy, a lady, a colleague deserving of respect, and a worthy journalist. Though the decade is different (1984 versus 2014), as are the country and culture, Paddy Meehan is a relatable character and author Denise Mina knows how to spin a tale.
The Dead Hour is the second in a series. Mina is described as an author of Tartan Noir, a term coined by James Ellroy in regard to author Ian Rankin’s success. Tartan Noir draws on the traditions of Scottish literature. “Works dwell on the duality of the soul; the nature of good and evil; (and) issues of redemption, salvation, and damnation” (Tartan Noir).
By the way, in the newsroom the dead hour is 3 a.m.