Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 July 2022 from Harvill Secker
My thanks to Harvill Secker for an advance copy for review
DECEPTION. THEFT. MURDER. ALL YOU NEED IS CONFIDENCE.
When amateur film-maker Lisa Lee vanishes from a Scottish seaside town, journalists Anna and Fin find themselves at the centre of an internet frenzy to find her.
But she may not be the hapless victim everyone thinks she is. The last film she made showed her breaking into an abandoned French chateau and stumbling across a priceless Roman silver casket. The day after Lisa vanishes the casket is listed for auction in Paris, reserve price fifty million euros, with a catalogue entry that challenges the beliefs of a major world religion.
On a thrilling chase across Europe to discover what happened to Lisa, Anna and Fin are caught up in a world of international art smuggling, religious zealotry and murder.
But someone doesn’t want them to find the missing girl… and will do anything to stop them.
I absolutely loved Conviction, the first in the Anna and Fin series and could not wait to get stuck into the sequel, Confidence. It does not disappoint.
The sense of an author having fun, of confidently enjoying spinning a fabulous storyline persists in Confidence and makes for a really pacy and hugely enjoyable read.
Anna McDonald and Fin Cohen are podcasters and in this story they become captivated by a video filmed by vlogger, Lisa Lee, who is filming in an old, abandoned French chateau alongside two Belgian urban explorers. She appears to discover an important silver relic; a box which they discover, is said to contain proof of the resurrection. But now she has disappeared. Lisa, from North Berwick, is known to Anna and Fin and so, relishing the opportunity to do a bit of abandoning themselves, they leave their respective bits of extended family (they’re all on a terrible holiday together) and go in search of the missing woman.
Lisa may be missing, but the silver box is not. It is up for auction in Paris and is attracting a great deal of interest from some very wealthy bidders.
Anna is our narrator and we also hear extracts from the podcast alongside other contemporaneous newspaper clippings, articles etc.
As they set out on their journey, they are met early on by Bram Van Wyk, a wealthy, cocktail cigarette smoking South African who is travelling with his 13 year old son Marcos – an unwilling and distinctly ungrateful child.
Van Wyk knows something of the history of the silver box and as Anna and Fin get to know him it soon transpires that he is on its trail and has his own convoluted reasons for needing to get hold of it, not all of them entirely legal. Like any self-respecting religious artefact, this silver box, known as the Voyniche Casket, comes with its own set of superstitions and its own folklore. The Voyniche Casket may be a harbinger of death, but that does not stop it being a massively sought after prize.
Against their better judgement, Anna and Fin allow themselves to take advantage of Van Wyk’s private plane and soon he is setting the travel agenda as they flit across Europe enjoying the best of everything that the leading hotels of Europe have to offer.
Denise Mina’s story is a brilliant and whirlwind adventure full of dubious people hiding behind respectable facades and involved in smuggling, stealing religious iconography and generally using their wealth to prove or disprove the story of Christianity. Following the trail of the casket leads us on a whirlwind trail of theft, duplicity and murder from Hungary, to Beirut and Boston all in the name of religion.
It’s a bit like an international Maltese Falcon with just as many dodgy characters and a lot of madcap adventurism that underpins quite a serious message. Do we need to prove the existence of Christ or should we just believe? The drive to find proof is one that ignores the essence of belief and cheapens it.
Mina’s writing though reminds me that she enjoys creating graphic novels and I could so easily visualise this in graphic novel format. It is certainly entertaining and full of spirited action. The ending is priceless.
Verdict: A mad journey across Europe is full of drama and adventure for our intrepid podcasting duo. Confidence is great fun, enjoyable and definitely a bit madcap. What’s not to love?
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 2017 as well as the Gordon Burn Prize and was named by The Times as one of the top ten crime novels of the decade. Conviction was the co-winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2019 and was selected for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club. Denise has also written plays and graphic novels, and presented television and radio programmes. She lives and works in Glasgow.