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Sunday, November 22, 2020


A compelling read from the very first sentence “Hope dies slowly but it does die” to the last. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Denise Mina’s novel The Less Dead opens with Dr Margo Dunlop sitting in a room at an adoption agency waiting to meet someone from her biological family who is very late.

This places her in the position to examine how she got to this point in her life. Her mother Janette died recently and she is busy tidying up the house in order to sell it. In the process, she comes across contact letters from someone called Nikki hidden deep in a drawer. These were addressed to Margo, care of Janette, asking her to write to her as she desperately needs her help.

Thus she discovers that Janette is not her true mother so she must have been adopted. Margo is very concerned about her own mental health – she had a breakdown after Janette died, she recently split up with her boyfriend and now discovers that she is pregnant. So she wants to find out if there is a genetic mental health problem – particularly for the baby’s sake.

When Nikki eventually arrives it turns out that she is Margo’s aunt. They begin talking and Margo notices signs of former drug usage on her hands. The truth tumbles out and Margo discovers that her biological mother, Susan, was a drug user and a prostitute who was murdered at the age of 19.

Nikki has been receiving threatening letters from someone who has been hunting her for years and wants Margo to get DNA from his abusive letters. Margo refuses as her position as a doctor does not allow her to do this.

So begins a compelling read from the very first sentence “Hope dies slowly but it does die” to the last.

This book will be appreciated by anyone who has been involved in or close to the adoption process.

I was immediately taken by the story as 14 years ago, I discovered I was adopted. While I have been lucky to link up with my biological half-sister and half-brother and have much knowledge of our mother, I still don’t know who my biological father is. This is the situation that Margo finds herself in – who was her father and did he murder her mother? If he didn’t, then who did?

Denise Mina’s writing is highly descriptive and her characters are very real. She takes the reader through Margo’s search with its many twists and turns. Just when you think the murderer has been identified, the story changes direction!

The Less Dead is published by Penguin RandomHouse UK. ISBN: 9781787301726 - Caroline Smart