Conviction by Denise Mina, Audiobook Review: Thrilling metafiction

Denise Mina’s Conviction (Anna & Fin, 1) is a thrilling modern spin on mystery metafiction; the audiobook expertly narrated by Cathleen McCarron. Read my full review.

Conviction (Anna & Fin, 1) Book Synopsis

Conviction by Denise Mina, Audiobook Review


Conviction stars a strong female protagonist who is obsessed by true-crime podcasts and decides, one day, to investigate one of the unsolved crimes herself.

It’s just a normal morning for Anna McDonald. Gym kits, packed lunches, getting everyone up and ready. Until she opens the front door to her best friend, Estelle. Anna turns to see her own husband at the top of the stairs, suitcase in hand. They’re leaving together, and they’re taking Anna’s two daughters with them.

Left alone in the big, dark house, Anna can’t think, she can’t take it in. With her safe, predictable world shattered, she distracts herself with a story: a true-crime podcast. There’s a sunken yacht in the Mediterranean, multiple murders and a hint of power and corruption. Then Anna realises she knew one of the victims in another life. She is convinced she knows what happened. Her past, so carefully hidden until now, will no longer stay silent.

This is a murder she can’t ignore, and she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, her past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into free fall. 

Conviction is the compelling and unique new thriller from multiple award winner and author of The Long Drop, Denise Mina.

Narrator: Cathleen McCarron; 9hrs 45mins

(Penguin Audio, 2019)

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Action-Adventure, Drama, Audio

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Book Review

Tired of the standard mystery thriller tropes? If so, Denis Mina’s highly original novel Conviction could be the mystery-thriller you are looking for.

I often said the wrong thing–wake up, shut up, grow up. These are the wrong things to say when people are sad about some minor cruelty or sentimental incident.

Historical events have left Anna a damaged soul. Behind her home-maker veneer she is bitter, she is angry. And now, with the collapse of her carefully constructed life, she is spiralling out of control.

Just when you think something can’t get any worse someone who dislikes you comes to watch.

The comparisons some have made to Killing Eve are apt – Conviction‘s protagonist Anna’s irascibility is certainly on par with Sandra Oh’s character Eve Polastri, and that, combined with the narcissism of the enemies at play, makes for a riveting story. Oh, and some of the humour in this novel is about as dark as you can get.

There is a warmth and a comfort in hearing about people in worse situations than your own. Pity is a hollow virtue. I like it. It’s a form of self-aggrandisement really, bigging yourself up by defining someone as below you. True-crime podcasts are usually great for that but sometimes you have to look really hard to find anyone down there. 

Now regular readers might say, ‘Wait a moment. You don’t normally engage with protagonists drinking a cup of self-pity while committing acts of self-sabotage?’ And to that I would say, ‘Correct’. However, Denise Mina’s special talent is developing feisty characters with such layering and nuance that readers cannot help but want them to prevail. The Conviction audience quickly learn that despite her failings, Anna is a tiger mother – she will do ‘anything’ for her girls.

In fact, her mothering instinct is the reason she finds herself begrudgingly taking quirky musician side-kick Fin along on this adventure with her. The contrast of Fin’s softness and Anna’s sharp edges yields some fabulously unpredictable exchanges between the pair.

Metafiction, audiobook narration

Did you see how I used the word ‘audience’ rather than ‘readers’ earlier? Well, my reasons for doing so are two-fold.

Firstly, Conviction is metafiction. It is a story about stories and storytelling, on so many levels. I will not spoil the surprise by explaining further, as my incremental awareness of the various layers at play was a great source of enjoyment for me. Add that narrative complexity to the already tangled crime mysteries at play, and I was in my element. But, metafiction is not for everyone.

The real meaning of stories depends on where they’re told, when and to whom.

Secondly, I strongly recommend consuming this novel in the audiobook format narrated by Cathleen McCarron like I did. McCarron is the award-winning narrator of bestsellers such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. She skilfully performs this novel’s multi-perspective narrative, expertly differentiates between the various characters, and really brings Mina’s complex protagonist to life, seamlessly switching between her raging and deadpan dark snark and more vulnerable moments.

Denise Mina’s Conviction is an engaging modern spin on the metafiction mystery-adventure tale. Novel fiction that’s assuredly elevated by Cathleen McCarron’s first-class audiobook narration.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of Conviction (Anna & Fin #1) from:

Amazon Book Depository Booktopia AU

OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

Great news! Denise Mina is scheduled to release a second title starring Anna and Fin, Confidence, in July 2022.

More Conviction reviews

“Hip, cutting-edge, and ridiculously unpredictable, this brilliantly multilayered puzzle hooked me from page one. Denise Mina is superbly talented — witty, original, and a mastermind of mystery. Absolutely terrific.”―Hank Phillippi Ryan, national bestselling author of Trust Me

“If you loved Killing Eve, you’ll devour Conviction” – Erin Kelly

“A dark star of a novel, blazingly intense, up-to-the-minute fresh, and exciting as all hell” – A. J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window

“Spellbinding…. A metafictional marvel that both endorses and exemplifies the power of storytelling.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author, Denise Mina

Denise Mina is the author of the Garnethill trilogy, the Paddy Meehan series and the Alex Morrow series. She has won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award twice and was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2014. The Long Drop, won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and the Gordon Burn Prize. Denise has also written plays and graphic novels, and presented television and radio programmes. She lives and works in Glasgow. Check out her website and connect with her on Twitter.