Sunday, December 18, 2011
THE END OF THE WASP SEASON by Denise Mina (2011) McArthur & Company, 404 pages
Denise Mina is a whip-smart lawyer-turned-crime-fiction-writer, and one of the finest of the genre. In THE END OF THE WASP SEASON, her eighth novel, millionaire Lars Anderson completes suicide by hanging himself from the oak tree on his sprawling Kent estate. Nobody seems at all upset by his death, including his wife and teenaged children. It's a bit of a relief to them all, truth be told, to be rid of the right bastard, who wrote in his final note to his wife, "I was a great husband. And in return you sucked the fucking life out of me. You fucking wizened bitch. I hope you're happy." And, no, he was not a great husband, as soon becomes clear. Nor was he much of a father to Thomas and Ella or to his secret second family shacked up in London, either.
What is more upsetting, however, is the apparently random murder of a young Glaswegian woman, Sarah Erroll, home to take care of the business following her own mother's death. She is bludgeoned by her young killers on the stairs as she tries to make her escape, wearing only a t-shirt--a source of embarrassment to the investigating officers who find her corpse indelicately sprawled.
DS Alex Morrow, pregnant with twins, and harboring secrets of her own, becomes the lead investigator in this case that points to a former classmate's sons and forces her to contemplate the nature of family and loyalty.
Through intelligent, character-driven twists and turns, Mina's multi-layered narrative reminds me stylistically of Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES or STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG. I hope they'd both be chuffed to be in each other's storytelling company.