NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK // REVIEW BY ANDREW SMITH
Confidence is Denise Mina’s follow-up to 2019’s engrossing bestseller Conviction. A knowledge of the first book is probably useful but is not totally necessary when reading this new adventure.
And that’s what this book is at heart, an adventure. It takes the reader all around Europe as our heroes, Anna and Fin, travel from Glasgow to North Berwick and from Paris to Rome in search of a missing vlogger, who was last seen filming an urban exploration video in an abandoned French chateau.
But it’s not just another missing person thriller, there is also the small matter of a priceless Roman casket that could turn the world upside down by providing proof of the resurrection of Christ.
Along the way there are a litany of fraudsters, bandits, smugglers, crooks and a whole host of twists and turns.
The embrace of true-crime podcast culture and blogging, and the format changes that come with it, make for a varied, pacey and fun book. They give it a sense of urgency and an intelligence that helps to elevate it beyond simply being a smarter, funnier and more high-brow version of the Da Vinci Code.
But the whirlwind pacing also causes the book to suffer, with the sheer number of twists and scene changes making it harder to focus on what’s happening at any one time. It also makes it harder for any individual location to attain the level of atmosphere that they could have benefitted from as we don’t always get enough of a sense of them.
The relationship between Anna and Fin works well and takes off from where Conviction finished off in terms of their chemistry. Their dialogue flows pretty well and they make for a partnership that may have real longevity if the series is expanded further.
Anna’s voice holds the story together well, and works both in the main narrative and the podcast extracts. She feels familiar and I expect she would translate well to an audiobook version.
However, the cast of supporting characters is a bit more hit-and-miss, with some of them harder to care about. There is a web of different relationships, agendas and sub-plots at play, and the sheer number of them makes it harder to care for them all or for them to breathe individually.
This particularly applied to the father-son relationship between two of the characters, Bram and Marcos, which feels a bit too contrived and underdeveloped and far too dependent on swearing for their dialogue to work. This is unfortunate as they come to play pretty central roles in the action.
There is no doubting the versatility of Mina’s writing, with this series providing a swashbuckling and enjoyable departure from some of her grittier stories like The Long Drop, which painted a dark picture of Glasgow’s underworld.
The ending may split audiences, but for me it worked well and provided a fitting finale. I doubt this is the last we’ll see of Anna and Fin, and, with a slightly more stripped-back and less worldly focus, it could prove to be an enduring relationship.
Confidence | By Denise Mina | 304 pp. | Harvill Secker | Paperback £8.99