Denise Mina Biography


Born in 1966, in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, Scotland; children: Fergus (with partner, Steve [a forensic psychologist]). Education: Received law degree from Glasgow University; graduate student at Strathclyde University.

Addresses: Agent —The Sayle Literary Agency, Bickerton House, 25-27 Bickerton Rd., London N19 5JT England.


Worked in a meat factory, and as a bartender, cook, and auxiliary nurse in a nursing home; later became university tutor in criminology and criminal law; first novel, Garnethill: A Novel of Crime, published in Britain, 1998.

Awards: John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first crime novel, Crime Writers' Association, for Garnethill: A Novel of Crime, 1998; Macallan Short Story Dagger, Crime Writers' Association, for "Helena and the Babies," 1998.


Crime-fiction writer Denise Mina has attracted a devoted following for her gritty, well-plotted novels whose secondary character is the urban underbelly of her native Glasgow. Mina belongs to a new genre of crime writers known as the "tartan noir" set for their unflinching fictional images of a more malevolent Scottish character. "Mina's books

portray a city she loves—a real, tangible Glasgow—in its patter and its rainy skies, and in the deprivation and ruthlessness of its dark side," wrote Scotsman journalist Susan Mansfield.

Mina was born in 1966 in East Kilbride, a town in the Lanarkshire district not far from Glasgow. The family relocated several times around Europe when she was a child because of her father's job as an oil engineer. It was also a Roman Catholic clan, and Mina attended convent schools for girls until the age of 16, when she struck out on her own. She worked as a bartender, cook, meat factory employee, and as an auxiliary nurse in a nursing home before deciding to enter college when she was in her early twenties. She studied law at Glasgow University, but never practiced after earning her degree; instead she taught law and criminology courses, and entered Strathclyde University with the goal of a Ph.D. Mina was especially interested in the prevalence of mental-illness diagnoses in female criminal offenders, but her research into false-memory syndrome began to weigh heavily on her, and she decided to take a break by writing some fiction.

Mina sent 80 pages of what she had written to an agent, who then asked to see the rest of it. She took three months off from her job, and wrote what became her first novel, Garnethill: A Novel of Crime. Published in Britain in 1998 and in the United States within a year, it became a U.K. bestseller and won Mina the John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first crime novel from the Crime Writers' Association. Garnethill 's story is set in Glasgow, where Mina had spent the majority of her adult years, and centers on amateur sleuth Maureen O'Donnell, who as adult realizes she was the victim of sexual abuse as a child. The perpetrator was her own father, but he vanished long ago. Maureen's brother, Liam, a drug dealer, is supportive of her, but her mother and sisters treat her allegations of abuse as lies. When the novel begins, Maureen has just been released after three years in a psychiatric treatment facility, where she had become romantically involved with Douglas Brady, one of her doctors. She wakes one morning to find his murdered body in her living room, and sets out to prove she was not his killer, though all clues seem to point to her.

Mina's next novel, Exile, also featured the down-to-earth and likable Maureen. In this story, she becomes involved in a domestic abuse shelter for women, suspects she is being stalked by Dr. Brady's killer, and tries to solve the murder of a woman from the shelter—though Jimmy, the dead woman's boyfriend, seems to be the prime suspect, and he is also the cousin of her close pal, Leslie. In Mina's third novel, Resolution, psychologist Angus Farrell is finally set to go on trial for Douglas Brady's murder, and once again Maureen fears for her safety because of her incriminating testimony. Compounding her problems are the return of the long-lost O'Don-nell father, and the death of a poor, nearly illiterate older woman Maureen knew from the flea market that seems tied to the Glasgow underworld.

Sanctum was Mina's first novel not to feature the intrepid Maureen. The book was published in the United States under the title Deception in 2004, and centers on the appeal case for Susie Harriot, a forensic psychiatrist convicted for the murder of one of her patients. The story is told through Susie's husband, Lachlan, who is trying to solve the case by combing through Susie's files, and he learns that his wife may not have been what she seemed—then Lachlan's own character is called into question as the novel unfolds. A book reviewer for People, Ellen Shapiro, praised Deception as a story that successfully blends "unnerving suspense with the uncommon pleasure of being inside Lachlan's unreliable, charmingly vain, and appallingly funny head."

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt read Deception and liked it so much that phone calls were made to Mina's publisher about acquiring the story rights, but it had already been sold for a planned British Broadcasting Corporation movie. Mina's next novel earned comparisons to Mystic River, the 2003 film based on Boston crime writer Dennis Lehane's tale of an insular, working-class neighborhood and a horrific crime. The Field of Blood, published in Britain in 2005, featured a new fictional female sleuth, the young Glasgow journalist Patricia (Paddy) Meehan. The story is set in the city in the early 1980s, and centers upon a terrible crime: the murder of a toddler by two older boys. One of the juvenile suspects is the cousin of Paddy's fiancé, Sean, and Paddy tries to untangle the threads that brought the two boys to commit such a deed.

The Field of Blood attracted a fair share of attention for Mina, though her novels regularly appear on the U.K. bestseller lists, because of its similarities to a real case in Merseyside, England, in 1993, when store security cameras captured footage of two older boys leading a toddler out of a shopping center; the youngster was later found beaten to death and run over by a train. She finished the draft for the book just days before she gave birth to a son, Fergus, and lives with her partner, Steve, a forensic psychiatrist, in the West End area of Glasgow. Under contract for several more Paddy Meehan stories, Mina asserts that becoming a parent has not quelled her penchant for writing about the darker side of her city, nor her ability to chronicle it in gritty prose. "I was told everything would change when I had a baby," she joked in the interview with the Scotsman 's Mans-field. "That I wouldn't want to watch the news anymore, I wouldn't be interested in stuff like this, I wouldn't like violent films—and none of that has happened."

Selected writings

Garnethill: A Novel of Crime, Bantam (London, England), 1998; Carroll … Graf (New York City), 1999.

Exile, Bantam, 2000; Carroll … Graf, 2001.

Resolution, Bantam, 2001; Carroll … Graf, 2002.

Sanctum, Bantam, 2002; published in the United

States as Deception, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.

The Field of Blood, Little, Brown, 2005.



Daily Mail (London, England), April 5, 2005, p. 15.

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), March 1, 2005, p. 18.

New York Times, September 9, 2002, p. B1.

People, August 23, 2004, p. 49.

Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1999, p. 63; January 1, 2001, p. 70; April 29, 2002, p. 45; July 26, 2004, p. 39; May 9, 2005, p. 40.

Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland) April 14, 2005, p. 36.


"Biography," Denise Mina Website, http://www. (August 23, 2005).

Carol Brennan

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