End of the wasp season. They all died, it was natural. At this time of year, when the rain set in and their time had come, the wasps found their way into every room at the front of the old mansion house, through rotting window frames, burrowing under stones and through vents, making their way inside to die. – from The End of the Wasp Season, page 48 –
Sarah Erroll is asleep in her mother’s house when a noise awakens her. What follows is a brutal murder and Sarah is left battered at the bottom of a staircase. Why is she dead? Is it because of the huge amount of money hidden beneath her kitchen table? Or is it something less obvious? Meanwhile, a millionaire banker hangs himself from the tree outside his home, and his wife and two children are left behind to sort out the financial and personal detritus he has left behind. Thomas, the son, harbors a dark secret and Ella, the daughter, is not well, while their mother, Moira, longs to escape it all. Enter Detective Inspector Alex Morrow, now pregnant with twins and a little less acerbic, but still intent on solving Sarah’s murder even if it means she must thumb her nose at police politics and ignore edicts from her boss, Bannerman.
This is the second book in Denise Mina’s Alex Morrow trilogy. Once again Mina constructs a multi-layered plot with well developed characters. Thematically, Mina revisits the idea of family connections, parenting, class, and dysfunctional relationships as a catalyst for criminal behavior. The novel has multiple points of view and moves back and forth between the perpetrators of the crime, the police investigation, and other characters who are connected to Alex, including her brother and an old childhood friend who is targeted early on as a suspect in the brutal murder.
I enjoyed The End of the Wasp Season much more than the first book in the series, Still Midnight (read my review). Perhaps it was because Mina allowed Alex to become a more sympathetic character, less hard edged but still with enough grit to get the job done. Or perhaps it was because the perpetrators of the murder were more humanized. But, I found myself more engaged in the story, more invested in the characters, than in the previous novel. That is not to say the book is without its flaws. For example, Mina makes a big jump in the plot by resolving Alex’s problems with her husband without showing the reader how she actually got there.
Although The End of the Wasp Season is the second book in a trilogy, it can easily stand alone for readers who want to start with this one. Those who enjoy thoughtful, literary mysteries and thrillers, will find the book accessible and worth their time to pick up.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher as part of my participation in BOOK CLUB at Devourer of Books.