Mystery novels from the U.K. have always been hugely popular on these shores. The various sub-genres and sub-sub-genres make it all more fun and interesting. A new category gaining lots of devoted readers is the genre known as "Tartan Noir". These books are a separate animal from the category of cosy Scottish mysteries, with high tea, visits from the vicar, and rose-covered cottages. Tartan Noir is the dark and gritty murder mystery or police procedural set in modern-day Scotland.
Several authors are the emblematic of Tartan Noir. Ian Rankin's detective Inspector Rebus is beset by the problems of a messy personal life as he navigates the back streets of Edinburgh. Many of Val McDermid's mysteries are set in Glasgow. Christopher Brookmyre's books are beginning to be available in the United States.
Denise Mina is a new name in Scottish mysteries, writing many-layered tales with complex criminals and equally complicated protagonists. The Detroit News ran a lengthy article on Mina and the rise of Scottish murder mysteries.
Mina's books are also political and social commentaries. A feminist with a law degree, she has written about abused women in the legal system. Her female characters are flawed but strong. The heroine of her first novel, "Garnethill," is a sexually abused former mental patient. In a later book, "Deception," the heroine is a forensic psychiatrist accused of murdering a serial killer.
Her writing is imbued with a keen sense of place -- in the Paddy books, the ruined landscape of mid-1980s Glasgow. Once a major industrial city, Glasgow had much of its economy destroyed during the Thatcher years. Tensions festered between impoverished immigrant Irish Catholics, confined to housing "schemes" or projects, and Protestants. In recent years the city has undergone a revival and is filled with galleries and boutiques. "Bigotry is more a feature of soccer now," Mina said.