Denise Mina. The End of the Wasp Season. Toronto, McArthur & Company, 2011.
Mina has a unique way of approaching the events and fallout from a crime scenario. There's a sting here, and not from the wasps that curl up and die after their natural span, as observed by a disturbed juvenile. DI Alex Morrow ― a Mina regular ― is called to investigate a particularly brutal murder; we are confronted first thing with puzzling elements of the scene. The narrative switches between the police investigation and the dysfunctional family of one miscreant, preparing for a funeral. Whether Morrow can connect them, and when more violence might take place, is at the heart of this suspense mystery.
It's a bit annoying not to understand the initial cryptic scenes that are almost a trademark style for Mina. She develops her characters with deceptively light but consummate touches ... the turn of a head, the querulous non sequitur, the daydreaming stare that hides confusion and ugliness. Family complications increase one after another; Lars and Moira were absent parents for their troubled children. Good thing Morrow's pregnancy (with twins) has made her more amenable to teamwork, in spite of an aggravating boss. Also, a childhood friend ultimately adds some needed warmth to Morrow's own tough background story. I'm hooked on Mina now.
Word: oxter ― the armpit, as used in Scotland and northern England (167)
Thomas is told his father died:
Abruptly Thomas slapped the wet off his face. He stood up and looked at the two men.
"My father came here," he said, looking down at them, not saying what he meant: when my father came here there were religious brothers running this school, monks ran this school, not just fucking teachers who couldn't get another job or work in industry actually making things and doing things.
"You're teachers." And my father paid for the fucking extension to the sixth form halls and the computer lab and you couldn't do that because you're just fucking teachers, so don't look down on me as a sad, lost fucking kid whose own fucking mother won't bother phoning ...". (53)
Morrow has soft moments:
Her hand stroked her stomach and she smiled faintly to herself, allowing herself another stroke and a smile before she set off. Four months pregnant and no miscarriage and the scans said both were growing and all was well. She felt happy, content for them all three to stay here for ever on the cusp of disaster and worry and sleeplessness.
She looked again at the green floor, at the scuffed walls of the corridor where terrified and half mad men and women had been dragged to interview rooms, angry, sad, kicking against officers, pathetic and passive or swearing revenge. The walls were lined with grief and fright and worry and she felt suddenly that she might be the only person in the short history of the building to find such a measure of absolute contentment there.
Knowing how few of these moments there might be, she shut her eyes, committing it to memory, before she blinked away her mood and moved on. (118-119)
New understanding dawns:
... Ella dissolved to the floor, arms in front of her. He looked down. Her wrists were scarred, badly scarred with long scratches up and down them.
He tried to pick her up. She flopped onto the floor again and curled around his ankle, sobbing, tears rolling into her yellow hair at the temple, her cheek maddened by the slap.
... Suddenly he understood the worried calls from the school over the year. This was why Lars and Moira went to visit her so much more than they went to see him. This was why they dropped their voices when they spoke about her. This was why they kept them apart. She had been ill for a long, long time. (311)
Ridley Pearson. Killer Summer. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2009.
With all due respect, this tale starring Sheriff Walt Fleming is no match for the adventures of detective Lou Boldt of Pearson's Seattle series. In my opinion. Even with an end paper map, the complicated treks through Idaho's daunting mountain country ― by more than one party ― are difficult to follow. Walt was enjoying an evening of fishing with his nephew when emergencies call him away, but for some time he can't tell if he's facing a bold heist, a complex extortion, or a kidnapping. Would you believe a character called Summer Sumner? I didn't ... a spoiled, entitled, teenage brat who precipitates at least half the action here. Summer is perhaps the best-developed of the rather superficially drawn players in the plot.
Nephew Kevin also gets swept into the action, along with Summer's father, Walt's father, a cowboy recluse, and a trio of calculating lowlifes. The plot is satisfactory but I felt a certain choppiness in sequence does not create a good story flow. Like many another big strong hero, Walt's inner feelings are hard to articulate, but his clumsy dialogue seems more stilted than credible. By the time the end came around, I didn't know or care who pulled off a shot, who missed, or who mis-fired. Shall I mention how many times I read "off of"? Pearson is not quite the author I remember; nevertheless, Sheriff Walt probably deserves another go, since he has his own series too.
You gotta learn to strike a balance between your pecker and your brain, boy. (297)
Sometimes his own staff treated him [Walt] like he didn't understand his own requests. (288)
[Kinda summarizes my comprehension ...]
An inexplicable moment:
The pilot was stocky, with an Irishman's florid cheeks and the kind of handsome that found its way onto the labels of soup cans. (254)
A platitudinous moment:
Mistake number one: don't ever expect a woman to do what you think she's going to do. Mistake number two: don't ever tell her what to do because that's a surefire way of making sure she doesn't. (295)
How I felt too, Walt:
"You do go to the movies?" Remy asked.
"Apparently not often enough."
"Christopher Cantell," Remy said. "That movie. Italian Job? No, that was a different one. Mark Wahlberg, right? Was it that one with Hanks? No, no, that was a con man, I think ... I don't know, I forget ... But they made a movie based on this guy Cantell. a heist movie. Above average, nothing great. But I remember the press: they played up the real-life side of it ... That's as much as I know about him."
"A movie," Walt said. He felt the rug going out from under him. (269-70)