Mina, Denise. The End of the Wasp Season.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

Mina has a knack for taking a novel, supposedly a single story, and reworking it as a cluster of related and converging stories, each with its own principal characters, its own interrelationships, its own plotline. The POV person in one will be a supporting player in one or more of the others.

It ends up as a symphony in which you can pay attention to just the brass or just the woodwinds, but the experience as a whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. That’s a talent many other writers should be jealous of.

She first attracted notice with her “Garnethill” trilogy, set in her native Glasgow, a very good mystery series that was also an exercise in grittiness. This new series, featuring Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow of Glasgow CIS, is quite different but also excellent. We met her in Still Midnight, when her marriage and personal life were falling apart, all while she was struggling to solve a kidnapping before it turned into a murder, and also had to deal with a real idiot of a fast-tracked colleague.

In this second helping, Morrow is still a very tough nut but she’s beginning to get her life together. She’s back with her husband (the split wasn’t his fault, or anyone’s, really), and she’s pregnant with twins (and loving it), though the aforesaid idiot colleague, DS Bannerman, has been promoted over her (it was inevitable). He no longer cares about trying to get along with anyone junior to him, just impressing those above him. And making it into the papers as often as possible. And there’s lots of potential publicity for Bannerman in this case.

Sarah Erroll, a young woman living alone in a big, old country house, the surrounding land having been subdivided and developed, is found stomped to death at the bottom of her staircase. Bannerman, who has no imagination, immediately decides it was just a random break-in that went bad — but that’s before half a million Euros is found hidden under the kitchen table. While doing the preliminary investigation, Alex discovers the dead woman’s daily house-cleaner is Kay Murray, a woman Alex grew up with in their working-class neighborhood, now a single mother, and that tentatively rekindled relationship becomes one of the plotlines.

Meanwhile, the multimillionaire head of a scummy financial company down south hangs himself very publicly on his front lawn (“So there!”), to absolutely no sympathy from anyone. He was directly responsible for the loss of many people’s life savings and was on the point of being indicted, so he offs himself and leaves a note blaming his wife. He’s been abusing her and his two kids all their lives (another plotline there), and all of them actually celebrate his demise with great relief. (Great scene, too.) But we know from the outset that the fifteen-year-old son, Thomas, who attends a private school up in Perth, had a direct part in Sarah’s murder, along with his buddy, Squeak. We just don’t know how — and Mina makes you work for it.

And then there’s Morrow’s brother, Danny, one of Glasgow’s more successful gangsters, with whom she has as little contact these days as she can manage, and her continuing connection with whom she keeps a tight secret from everyone except her husband. But Kay also knows him, from the old days, and that becomes yet another converging plotline. Because everything here does eventually come together. Everything is connected to everything else. And while there’s no happy ending (except maybe for Kay), everything is more or less satisfactorily resolved. A terrific piece of writing, and the series continues, too.


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