This is a mean thing to ask on a sunny spring New York day, but I'm hoping you'll look out the window and describe some fantastic rain.

Oh, yes, absolutely. It's very gray and very overcast—typical Scottish weather, with the trees all blasted about. It's 13 degrees—what you'd call freezing, and our idea of a nice mild day.

Perfect. Thank you. Now your name—you grew up Denise Mina? I wondered whether people had sometimes confused your last name for a first name and that's why heroine Paddy Meehan's name [identical to that of a wrongly convicted murderer] is central to her character and the plot of Field of Blood?

A lot of people think it's a pen name. You know—Miss D. Mina? But actually it's pronounced "my-na." In Scotland, there are very few names. Wishart is a name that was important in the Scottish Reformation in the 1500s, and it's probably the name of the man who sells you an ice cream from his van. We're very insular here. I suppose that's part of the reason I'm really interested in identities. With Paddy, her name is just part of it.

Did you grow up Catholic like Paddy?

Oh, yes. That family is my family. The funeral I describe in Field of Blood is my great-aunt's funeral. My family are very religious. My mum was one of 13 children. Of course, in my generation, every single person has handled it by marrying a Protestant, and I ended up with someone Jewish.

How does the older generation regard your books?

Well, it's very funny. They're proud of me, you know? So they buy the book in a foreign language to show off my name on the cover, but so no one can read the sexy bits inside or the parts where people don't go to chapel.

For most American readers, it's probably more shocking that an eight-year-old boy could be considered an adult in a criminal case. Is that still true in Scotland?

Yes, eight is the age of adult responsibility, but there are children's panels, a quasi-judicial system of laypeople and lawyers, and they deal with most child offenders in the first instance now. You know, it's not just the act that these boys are held guilty of. They're demonized for breaching the contract of childhood. But in America, didn't your Supreme Court only just put an end to the execution of children under 16?

Are you still teaching law?

Oh, I gave it up ages ago. I couldn't concentrate. I was awful at it, really—I needed an editor!