Story telling

Denise Mina’s Rizzio is superb storytelling

book review

By Derryll White

Mina, Denise (2021). Rizio.

Denise Mina is a Scottish playwright and novelist. She also does graphic novels and is sometimes referred to as the author of Tartan Noir.

Working a number of odd jobs during her teens and twenties, she eventually returned to school and earned a law degree from the University of Glasgow. She then taught criminology and criminal law. ‘Rizzio’ is his latest novel, and it’s a big departure from his previous work.

In this volume it is religion and politics! Politics and religion! Denise Mina visits Mary Queen of Scots in 1566. She aptly brings the brutality of a bygone era into the present, encouraging remembrance of our own tragedies – Martin Luther King, the Kennedy family, the sad stories of our Prime Ministers and the incredible machinations of Donald Trump.

Politics don’t change – bad business whether it’s a queen or a president. Religion does not change – it is also a dirty business for many. Denise Mina takes a few liberties with the story, but she brings the nuanced sad reality of what men have done to women through 450 years of servitude to today.

Each reader will take something different from this story. Denise Mina did a superb job.


Excerpts from the book:

RESPONSIBILITY – Everyone pulls out their knife because everyone is going to stab it. It’s the market. Caesar was stabbed by all the great men of Rome. Only one of the wounds was fatal; most were only superficial nicks, small tentative gestures of involvement. The collective nature of the act meant that everyone was tainted, that no one could be prosecuted because their fates were joined. If anyone was punished for this act, the whole class would fall.

These men are cowards.

CLARITY – It takes two hundred years to lift the stench, and, when it’s finally long enough in the past to turn into a romantic tale, it’s the English who cherish the story of the beautiful Queen of Scotland who fell victim to intimidation.

Derryll White once wrote books, but now chooses to read and write about them. When he’s not reading, he writes history for the web at