The first book in the Garnethill series featuring Maureen O'Donnell.

Awarded the Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel

Maureen O'Donnell, ex-psychiatric patient and all round winner-at-the-game-of-life, wakes up and knows it’s over. She doesn’t want to see Douglas anymore.

After a drunken night out with her best friend she wakes up and finds him tied to a chair in her living room, his throat slit. The police suspect her and her brother, Liam, pharmacist without portfolio.

Maureen has to explore the world of people who either won’t, or can’t, speak to the police to find the real killer.


This is the book that made me fall in love with Denise Mina. She’s a terrific social commentator and does all the things good crime fiction should always do: talk about characters and how their lives are changed for the better or worse by acts of violence.
— Author Karin Slaughter on GoodReads
Funny, raw, compassionate, often brutal, Garnethill turns a wry humour on the shortcomings of its very human characters.

Writing Garnethill - Denise's experience


Garnethill started as a last-ditch effort to get the idea of writing out of my head. I was working as a hapless academic at the time but only really had one eye on my job. I spent a lot of time thinking about writing, composing lines in my head and day dreaming about hours of blank time in front of the computer. I wrote the first three chapters of the book and sent them off to literary agents picked out of the talking pages by an operator. The first two told me no thanks and the third asked to see the rest of it. I promised to re write it and send it on. I had three months.

"It was a joy to write. I was doing a PhD and just stayed at home and wrote. I was smoking heavily at the time and would get up, bounce out of bed and light a fag, sit at the machine and start for the day. Sometimes I was there at one am and I’d get up and start again at eight the next morning. By the time I finished my lips were withered from having a rollie clamped between them. Thinking of it now the time sequence seems like a bad TV movie, if only I drank coffee out of paper cups and the chief of police had given me twenty-four hours to break the case.

"The agent got me to rewrite it four times. I remember finishing the last draft before she took it to publishers and thinking that I should enjoy this pause before the disappointing crash. Anyway, the first publisher she took it to bought it. I didn't sleep for a week after I heard. I had to keep excusing myself at work and hiding in the loo because I when it occurred to me I would laugh like a drunk sailor on shore leave. Buzz of a lifetime.

"Within what felt like weeks the book had been sold to a lot of foreign agents. I was living in a bedsit at the time and the phone rang one morning at nine am. We were all bums, no one ever rang us before eleven in the morning. Anyway, I picked up and it was a movie producer calling from the Cannes Film Festival to say she wanted to buy the rights to Garnethill. She kept asking what the beep noise on the line was. She had never phoned a call box before.

"I bought a fur coat and a cigarette holder, shed my former friends and have never looked back. In the blink of a mascara-streaked eye, I was petulantly throwing a Campari and soda across the fitted white shag pile of my open plan living room.”

More about the Garnethill district

Garnethill is a hilly district near the city centre in Glasgow, in Scotland.

Awards and nominations

Get this book

Read the first chapter of Garnethill and buy the book on the Orion Books website.

Garnethill was published in 1998