crime novelist Denise Mina on Twitter trolls

“It’s a lot of weather you have here,” a visitor to Glasgow observes in Denise Mina’s new novel. I feel like quoting the line to Mina as she hops off her electric bike to greet me in Kelvingrove Park, but she is oblivious to the rain, and more worried by how quiet it is. “We used to have loads of riots in the park in the summer, and we’ve only had one in two years,” she says. “Very shabby! But that’s the pandemic – I’m sure we’ll get back on form.”

It will be no surprise to anyone who’s read Mina’s teeming, offbeat crime fiction that she thrives on the chaotic aspects of Glasgow life. As we take a soggy stroll round Garnethill, the setting for the gritty trilogy of novels that kicked off her career in the late 1990s, she tells me what she loves about the city.

“Glaswegians are very pass-remarkable. Do you know that phrase we have? They’re always passing remark. It’s a physical equivalent of Twitter here: people come up to you in the street and tell you things or start arguing with you. They’ll say: ‘I read your book and I thought it was s—, and here’s why’ – which is a very privileged position for a writer to be in. And if they tell you they like your hair, you know they mean it,” she adds, gesturing at her punky, porcupiney silver locks.

At 55, Mina is one of the most award-laden of British crime writers, much-praised for tackling such difficult subjects as society’s neglect of the mentally ill or police contempt for sex workers, always with a sulphurous wit that makes her books a joy to read. But then, she says, being funny comes as naturally to Glaswegians as breathing.

“It’s Aphorism City. Funny lines are like small presents we give each other.” Mina’s default conversational gambit is to spin comedy from her own tragedies and setbacks. “I was at a literary festival in California – someone came up to me at the end of my event and gave me a card for a therapist. I don’t need therapy, I’m just from Glasgow.”

With the sun taking half-hearted pity on us, we walk over to a more chi-chi part of town on the other side of the park, to look at a run-down but beautiful mews cottage, currently uninhabited. Mina has appropriated it as the home of Anna McDonald, the true-crime podcaster who is the heroine of two of her novels: Conviction (2019) and her latest, Confidence. “I’m hoping someone will read about it and then buy it and fix it up because it is absolutely gorgeous.”

Confidence ventures beyond Glasgow, however, taking Anna and her sidekick Finn around Europe in pursuit of a stolen casket believed to have been owned by Pontius Pilate. It was inspired by Mina’s research into the thriving underworld of artefact smuggling.

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