Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Review of "The End of the Wasp Season" [2]

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
Regan Arthur Books, ISBN 978-0316069335
September 26, 2011, 400 pages

"When a notorious millionaire banker hangs himself, his death attracts no sympathy. But the legacy of a lifetime of selfishness is widespread, and the carnage most acute among those he ought to be protecting: his family.

Meanwhile, in a wealthy suburb of Glasgow, a young woman is found savagely murdered. The community is stunned by what appears to be a vicious, random attack. When Detective Inspector Alex Morrow, heavily pregnant with twins, is called in to investigate, she soon discovers that a tangled web of lies lurks behind the murder. It's a web that will spiral through Alex's own home, the local community, and ultimately right back to a swinging rope, hundreds of miles away.

The End of the Wasp Season is an accomplished, compelling and multi-layered novel about family's power of damage-and redemption."

The suicide of  Lars Anderson invokes little sympathy, even among his own family. He was once an extremely rich man, a man who caused a lot of people to lose their money before his creation fell apart. He was a man with a lot of enemies. But there is no mystery about his death.

Then there is the horrible, brutal murder of  24 year old Sarah Erroll in her own home. Again, for us, the readers, there is not a lot of mystery about her death. From the opening pages we know who did it, even to a degree, why they did it. Yes, the viciousness of the murder is not fully understood until later in the book and the ultimate chilling truth of it all is not to be understood until the very last pages of the book. Still, we even find out fairly early in the book that there is some connection between these two deaths, or at least the individuals involved. We seem to know a good deal of what has happened.
So is this book a mystery? Well, actually, I would describe this as a crime novel, emphasis on the novel. A novel that happens to be centered around some very nasty crimes.

This is the second of Mina's book starring Detective Inspector Alex Morrow, charged with investigating the murder.  And starring is the right word. She is very likable, the sort of charcter you miss when the book is finished. She is tough and smart at her job while at the same time dealing with a potential coup happening among her fellow police officers. Yet she has another side, a vulnerable side, that we see when she has to deal with the burial of her father, forcing her once more to interact with her brother, the head of a criminal organization and a secret she has been trying to keep her whole adult life. He is part of a world she has tried so hard to leave behind but that she keeps getting dragged back into. And then there is the fact that she is five months pregnant, with twins no less, a wonderful, hopeful event yet one with just a bit of fear after the death of Morrow's first child, a son, just a few years ago.

But Morrow is not the only great character in this story. Even the murder victim, Sarah, has more than a few secrets, not the least of which is the vast amount of money hidden under the kitchen table. What exactly was she into, and is that tied to her death? Then there is Kay, a house cleaner with four teenage children, just trying her best to scrape by, and protect her kids growing up in a less than ideal circumstance. But she too is key to the story, because it turns out she knew the murdered woman, was the principle caregiver for the murdered woman recently dead mother...and a childhood friend of DI Morrow. Kay is tough and smart too, just like her old friend, but could she somehow be involved in the murder..and just how far will she go to protect her kids? And speaking of protecting your kids, we will also meet the family of Lars Anderson, the man who committed suicide, a family that puts the dysfunction in dysfunctional. Yes, ultimately this book is all about family, about the family we grew up in and the family we create, about families that protect and families that destroy.

Mina is an excellent writer and while I have enjoyed all her books, I must admit that the two Morrow books, this and the first, Still Midnight, are maybe my favorites. I love the Scotland setting of all her books, and they are all so very well written, but the character of  Morrow makes these two stand out for me. And if you have not read any of Mina's books before they are a great place to start since this is only the second book in the series. You could totally read this one as a standalone, but the first one is so good you really should start there and find out a lot more about Morrow's background that will make some of the events in this one even more meaningful.

Highly recommended.


  1. ooh, this does sound good and the Scotland setting is very appealing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I am adding it to the list .. a high recommendation from you means a lot to me ..

  3. oh, the pressure...the responsibility.

  4. Now you've returned previous "favors"---just what I need! Another series! She mutters as she goes off in search of new author Mina

  5. I've got this series on my radar for 2012. I picked up STILL MIDNIGHT last fall and when I realized that there was a new book in the series, I was very happy. Denise Mina is not an author I've read before, but the Scotland setting is appealing and I've heard good things about her books. Gritty or at least her other books might be, but that is not a turnoff for me.

  6. You are very bad for my series addiction. Stop it! I loved this review...very nicely done.

  7. You make a good case for going back and starting this series from the start.

  8. I'm pretty sure I have this and Still Midnight. Now I need to make time to read them.

  9. Great site! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am bookmarking your feeds also
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