If you’ve read my review of Conviction, you’ll know how much I loved it, so I’m honoured to be hosting Denise Mina on the Bloody Scotland blog tour.
Here is an extract from the novel. Enjoy!
Conviction (Vintage) by Denise Mina
It was a nice car. I have to give Hamish that. His intellectual
life might have ended at Cambridge but he does have
an eye for a nice car. The engine was quiet and smooth, the
seats deep and comfortable.
Fin was shivering in the bucket of the passenger seat. not
in his extremities, not a tremble, but from so deep down in
his middle it looked like tiny convulsions. He was embarrassed
about it and didn’t want me to ask so I didn’t. I just
turned the heating up and pulled out of the parking space.
Great Western Terrace has a sharp drive down to the Great
Western Road. It was jammed with cars and buses and it
was a long time since I had driven. I kangarooed violently
down the steep slip road, straight into the stream of rushhour
traffic almost hitting a car side-on. The driver was angry
and gestured at me eloquently. I pretended I hadn’t noticed,
though he was only five feet away from me.
‘Where are we going?’ asked Fin, his voice faint.
‘Well, I’m going to Fort William. Where do you want me
to drop you? Are you going home?’
Fin didn’t answer me but there was a lot going on in the
road, I hadn’t driven for a really long time, so I didn’t notice.
The lights changed and the driver I’d almost rammed gave
me an ardent finger as he moved away. I gave an apologetic
wave. A few cars further down a man let me edge clumsily
into the stream of traffic ahead of him. I could tell from his
expression in the rear-view mirror that he was shocked at my
driving. He left quite a big space behind me.
‘Fin. Where do you want dropped off?’
‘no,’ he muttered, ‘I’m just, around . . .’
I stalled and had to restart the car. A lot of drivers were watching
me now and it’s an understatement to say that they were
unimpressed. I didn’t care. Up ahead a bus edged into a yellow
box and a chorus of car horns sounded around the junction.
I was elated at escaping from the hall; I had got away from the
cellar. God alone knew where reminders of Gretchen Teigler
would have taken me if I hadn’t. I was grateful to Fin for that but
I wondered why he had come to the door. Did he come to tell
me something? We didn’t know each other. He may have been
my best friend’s husband but he’d always been cold towards me.
‘Why did you come to the house? Did Hamish send you
to check on me?’
‘Send me? Hamish?’ His voice was very faint. ‘He’s . . .
they’ve run off together. D’you know that?’
‘I – yeah. I know. To Porto. They took my kids.’
For some reason I had assumed Fin was in on it, that he
was ok with, or even the cause of it. I thought he would
have been having affairs with other women and, you know,
maybe, you couldn’t blame Estelle. I didn’t think it would
be the same for him as it was for as me. But that’s part of
being down. Empathy loss. I can’t imagine anything might be
worse for anyone else, not really.
He sounded indignant. ‘I’m not friends with Hamish.’
The bus moved and we got across the junction to the next
set of lights. It felt like another tiny triumph.
‘Why did you come to the house?’
‘I dunno. I was a bit, you know . . .’ Fin’s voice was soft, his
breath stuttering. ‘. . . I thought of. You and just. I wondered . . .’
I glanced at the passenger seat. Tears were dripping from
his beard as he stared straight ahead at the road. He looked
glazed and grey and his jacket was buttoned up over his concave
He didn’t answer.
I couldn’t stop the car and put him out, not in two lanes
of heavy, bad-tempered traffic. He didn’t seem capable of
finding his way to the pavement. I wanted rid of him now
though, now we were away from Pretcha and I had spoiled
her fun. I wanted him out of the car and I never, ever wanted
to see him again.
Because I didn’t like Fin at all.
It wasn’t personal, though I did think his band were whimsical
and a bit crap. I didn’t like him because he had snubbed
me the few times we had met and, I suppose, because Estelle
bad-mouthed him a lot. Also, he scared me. I hate famous
I don’t remember him becoming well known. I didn’t
know Estelle at the time. It seemed to happen very quickly,
while I was having babies and being a happy bit of furniture.
His band were young, just in their late teens. They had only
played small gigs in the living rooms of fans who won competitions.
Without releasing more than a couple of demos
they were suddenly everywhere. I can’t remember how that
happened. It was Fin Cohen people were interested in, really.
He was tall, groomed and very good-looking. He was vegan,
anti-capitalist, all the buzzwords. Hailed as the leader of a new
subculture, he was interviewed on every topic from summer
colours to climate change. He was everywhere, worldwide
fame, huge in South America and Asia. It took less than two
years for capitalism to eat him.
Cohen lost a lot of weight. The press followed him around,
taking pictures, charting his decline. He became terrifyingly
thin and wore very tight clothes. His face hollowed out.
Suddenly he was forced into rehab for opiate addiction. So
far so on trend.
The band were self-managed, which Estelle said was like
trying to run a train company from a smartphone. A massive
unexpected tax bill came in. All of their stage equipment was
stolen in Germany and they had taken out the wrong insurance.
Then came the famous interview. The drummer got wasted
and gave an interview to a nasty vlogger. I haven’t watched it
but apparently the vlogger prises everyone’s secrets out of the
very drunk twenty-year-old. Their bass player was sexually
predating on their young fans. This was true, he later went
to jail for it. The guitarist painted miniature dragon statues
as a hobby and lived with his mum. Their frontman, Cohen,
wasn’t an addict, that was a lie. Fin was anorexic. Addiction
was cool but an eating disorder wasn’t, apparently.
The band imploded, gone as quickly as they arrived, a
footnote in music history. But celebrity sticks in a small town
and Glasgow is small.
Estelle was Portuguese. She married him at the height of
his fame, big diamond ring, rush-wedding in Vegas. This was
before the weight loss began. She was there for the car crash
and she stayed, but it was hard. They were broke. His eating
ruled their lives. He was in and out of hospital. I still saw blurry
pictures of him on the cover of the schadenfreude magazines,
speculating about his weight and mental health.
I looked at him sitting in the passenger seat, his thighs
hardly touching, so thin that the safety belt might as well
have been done up over an empty chair. He looked as if he
‘Fin? Have you eaten today?’
He didn’t answer.
‘Do you want me to drop you somewhere?’
He didn’t answer.
Mothering is a comfort. Even through a smog of suicidal
self-pity I found the voice I used for the girls:
‘oK, Fin. You want to come and meet my pal Adam? Have
a wee road trip up and down to Fort William?’ I think he
nodded. It was hard to tell. ‘Yeah. We’ll go on a drive and
see some sights. Shall we?’ He didn’t answer. I should have
listened. ‘Come on, then.’
I was driving, my life was in pieces, I had someone to look
after, my leg hurt, it was all good, except that one small part
of my mind was still unoccupied. I remembered Hamish and
the old dark feelings began to rise again.
I couldn’t stand to be alone with those thoughts.
When we stopped at the lights I got out my phone and I
An extract taken from: Conviction (Vintage) by Denise Mina
Shortlisted for The McIlvanney Prize 2019. Winner to be announced at the Bloody Scotland opening night reception on Friday 20 September. For festival tickets and information www.bloodyscotland.com
Check out the other blogs on the Bloody Scotland blog tour!