The End of the Wasp Season
by Denise Mina
I had the pleasure of meeting Scottish crime writer Denise Mina at the Wellington Festival of the Arts this year, so when I read that The End of the Wasp Season had just won the Theakston's Old Peculier Best Crime Book Award I had to go buy a copy. Theakston's Old Peculier is a beer, by the way, and the award trophy is a miniature beer barrel!
Glaswegian Mina is renowned for her depiction of the mean streets of Glasgow, much like Rankin with Edinburgh, and I can see why. In this book her series character Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow is investigating the brutal murder of a young woman in her own home in a wealthy Glasgow suburb. Alex not only has to deal with a very nasty crime, where she feels her colleagues don't care enough about the victim, but also departmental politics and the fact she is rather pregnant with twins.
From the outset the reader knows the crime was committed by two teenagers from a very posh private school, but Mina cleverly weaves in their stories, making the reader sympathetic towards them, and she also weaves in plenty of twists and tangles along the way. When I started reading this book I thought it rather grim and wondered if I could hack it, but I was soon drawn in and captivated by the characters.
Denise Mina is fabulous at describing the social classes, inviting you into their homes, seeing how they live, breathe and tick, from the poor, hardworking and genuinely caring but with everything stacked against her single mum of four teenagers, to the over-privileged but emotionally bankrupt Lars Anderson and how his suicide leaves his already broken family in tatters.
I thought this book was fabulous, and especially thought the way the author made us empathise with the good and the evil was incredibly well done. I can see why it won the beer barrel.