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The "Gods and Beasts" in the title of this darkly compelling book refers to a tattoo on the neck of an American witness, Martin Havel, to a post office robbery in Glasgow. During the robbery a grandfather, Brendan Lyons, pushes his grandson at Martin before helping the robber load cash into a bag, and then being shot and killed by him. Martin is sure that the grandfather and robber knew one another.
DS Alex Morrow has only recently returned to work in Strathclyde Police after the birth of her twins and is struggling to keep her home and professional lives apart. Martin Havel is the best witness to the robbery and murder, but something about him doesn't seem right. And then she finds that the more she learns about the victim, the less straightforward anything seems to be. How could a one-time political activist and man of huge personal integrity have known someone willing to cut him in half with an AK47? Is his family being honest with her, or are there parts of the story they are keeping to themselves? Meanwhile, DS Morrow has to decide whether to ask her half brother, a leading member of the Glasgow underworld, to act as godfather to her sons.
Then it emerges that someone is trying to bribe members of Morrow's team, and she can no longer be sure who she can trust and who she can't. Elsewhere in Glasgow, we meet the once revered politician whose future as an MP is threatened when stories emerge about an affair with a young assistant. Kenny Gallagher decides he can only save his political career, and his marriage, if he sues the newspaper publishing the stories for defamation, even though he is unlikely to win. As DS Morrow digs deeper she begins to wonder if the victim's political past and his old links to Kenny Gallagher might help explain his murder.
Denise Mina's style is gritty, detailed and believable, and "Gods and Beasts" has a "fly on the wall documentary" feel that keeps you turning the page. The twists and turns are nicely plotted and the apparently unrelated strands of the story are drawn together in a very credible way that is both intellectually satisfying and morally unsettling. DS Morrow is a fine addition to Scotland's diverse collection of literary detectives.