Saturday, 2 July 2011

book review - Denise Mina

There's a new load of reviews just been posted over at CRIMESQUAD and here's one wot I wrote about Denise Mina's latest - End of the Wasp Season.

What's it all about ...?

When notorious millionaire banker Lars Anderson hangs himself from the old oak tree in front of his Kent mansion his death attracts little sympathy. One less shark is little loss to a world nursing a financial hangover. But the legacy of a life time of self-serving is widespread, the carnage most acute among those he ought to be protecting: his family. He leaves behind two deeply damaged children and a broken wife.

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

What did I make of it ...?

This is the second book in which Denise Mina brings us the character of DS Morrow and for me is the one where she really gets into her groove with this individual. I use the word “individual” deliberately because Morrow is so well drawn she feels like a real person. Next time I’m up in Glasgow I fully expect to bump into her.

It’s in the depiction of her characters where Mina excels. A little slice of description, an action, some carefully crafted dialogue and they take flesh before your eyes. Adding heft to this is her ability to record the interaction between her characters: to demonstrate their finely nuanced behaviour.

End of the Wasp Season is ostensibly a police procedural, but Denise Mina’s talent takes it beyond any perceived limitations of that sub-genre into a multi-layered human drama. With a dollop of violence and generous helping of mystery to keep us crime addicts happy. As a reader you know pretty much from the off “who-dunnit” but that’s not the point of this excellent novel. This is people-watching on an intimate and at times uncomfortable level.

And it’s this ability to draw her characters that makes you care. Mina enlists your sympathy even for the suspected killer, despite the fact he’s spoiled rotten and given every advantage in life. Real life is never that straightforward. We life in a world of contrast, a rainbow of gray if you will, and few writers highlight that as well as Denise Mina does.

If you prefer a read chock full of red-herrings and the chance to deduce who the bad-guy is, this is not the book for you.  I can also understand if readers who are new to Denise Mina feel the pace lags in places.  For me, however, End of the Wasp Season is a vibrant, thought-provoking read and one that is an excellent addition to this talented author’s oeuvre.


  1. I love the title of the book!
    And why aren't you mowing some grass, Michael, it's taken over your whole blog :PP

  2. I've just got this. Really looking forward to it now,

  3. Dez, you must be psychic. At the time you were leaving this message I was doing just that. Now I'm going to sit and admire my handiwork with a coffee.

    Paul, with Denise Mina the devil is in the detail. I hope you enjoy.

  4. Loved the Paddy Meaghan books,so delighted to see a new series. I'll check out the first one and work my way up to this one!

    Janice J

  5. Denise has got a good following now but she deserves an even bigger one. She writes about real people, real issues - great sense of humour, very entertaining and full of compassion. I'm a big fan.

  6. Bill - I spoke with the lady herself at Harrogate a couple of years ago and she told me that she sells more books in the US than she does over here. Hopefully the recent dramatisation of the Paddy Meehan book will have helped that situatio.