It is 1997. Young Rose Wilson is waiting for her pimp Sammie one night when Pinkie Brown, a young man she knows, asks her to hide a knife for him. Although she has had a crush on him, she suddenly understands he is attempting to use her. She tries to push him away and ends up accidentally stabbing him to death. Terrified about what Sammie will do to her, she attempts to hide from him that she is covered in blood as they drive away from the area. But he finally sees the blood, so she attacks him in panic, killing him. Then she realizes she has nowhere to go and no way to hide her crime, so she sits in the car and waits for the police.
In the present time, Detective Inspector Alex Morrow is set to testify against Michael Brown. He was found guilty years ago of the murder of his older brother Pinkie. Now he is up on weapons charges, as caches of guns with his fingerprints on them were found buried in his back yard. But Alex soon learns something puzzling. Brown’s fingerprints were found at the scene of a murder that happened three days before in an abandoned building on the Red Road, when Brown was in custody. Although Alex is inclined to believe this is some ploy by Brown’s defense, Anton Atholl, she can’t figure out what they have to gain from it. In any case, court is dismissed because of news of the death of another defense attorney, Julius McMillan.
Back in the past, it is Julius McMillan who saves Rose. After Rose admits everything she did, he figures out a way for her to serve minimal time for Sammie’s death, as long as no one connects her to the killing of Pinkie Brown. To save her, he is forced to make a deal with some powerful but unscrupulous men.
Alex’s investigation is taking some unexpected detours, and eventually she figures out that there was a conspiracy to pin Pinkie’s murder on Michael years ago. Michael’s fingerprints were switched for those of the real murderer, who has just killed again. Although Alex begins to realize she will be up against some powerful people, she just can’t let something like that go.
Denise Mina’s mysteries are set in a gritty Glasgow. Alex is an abrasive and stubborn heroine whose career keeps being dead-ended because she insists on going up against corrupt politicians and police. The novels are smart and interesting, with convincingly drawn characters.