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The End of the Wasp Season is 2nd in a series about DS Alex Morrow, a Glaswegian police detective who was introduced in Still Midnight, although I think it could be enjoyed by someone who has not read that book. I've been waiting for it for more than 18 months, and it didn't disappoint.
It is a crime novel but there is not much of a mystery for the reader, as the story opens with the murder of a young woman, Sarah, in a big house by two teenage boys. One strand of the narrative is about Thomas, one of the killers, and the background to his action. Another is about the police investigation into the crime, led by Morrow, and also about the politics of her workplace.
One of the strengths of Mina's writing is her depth of characterisation, especially of the female characters, and The End of the Wasp Season doesn't disappoint. Morrow is spiky to the point of being abrasive and normally very ambitious. Yet here, her ambition is tempered for several reasons. One is that she is pregnant with twins and still anxious that nothing should go wrong - while she doesn't plan to leave her job, she is well aware that she will be on maternity leave. Another is that this case will test her loyalty to old friends. She is coming to realise there may be other things that are more important to her than work.
Mina has always been a very political, class conscious and avowedly feminist writer, never more so than in this book. The other women in the story provide a contrast to Morrow, and introduce a series of issues into this thought provoking novel about how horrible crimes reflect on society. It made me muse on how and why women take on different jobs and roles. When we first see Sarah, she appears to be a very successful young woman in a posh house, but she was there sorting it out after her mother's death, and the truth was rather more sordid. Then there is Kay, who helped run an army of carers looking after Sarah's mother, who was at school with Alex, now trying to bring up 4 teenagers on her own and fighting to defy the stereotypes of a working class single mum in a Council flat.
Mina also works hard to engage the reader's sympathy for her less likely characters, such as Thomas Anderson, teenage killer and son of a millionaire businessman. Thomas' father Lars has just committed suicide, leaving behind his wife and Thomas and an equally messed up daughter. I didn't like Thomas but I did find myself drawn into feeling sorry for him and caring what happened.
The End of the Wasp Season is not one of Mina's best novels - I preferred Still Midnight, her debut Garnethill and the Paddy Meehan series starting with The Field of Blood. However, that means it is just very good rather than outstanding.
I received a free copy of this book through the Amazon Vine review programme, and have posted it previously on the Amazon website.
Published by Orion, May 2011