Saturday, January 20, 2018

Book Review: 'The Fourth Season' by Dorothy Johnston


The Fourth Season offers a wonderful combination of mystery and literary fiction that will enchant you.
It took me a while to familiarize myself with the characters of the novel. Perhaps the fact that this is the fourth novel in the Sandra Mahoney quartet has made some of the introductions and transitions in the first third of the novel a little too abrupt, the author presuming the reader was familiar with the backstory. But once I established the connections between the protagonists and their past and present relationships, an intricate, compelling web of relationships opened up in front of me and drew me into the story.
All the characters, including the children, were portrayed as distinct personalities with motives and complex psychological inner lives. Each character was a world onto themselves and they were all a delight to discover and delve into. This was what also made the relationships complex, multi-faceted and unpredictable, all adding to the suspense of the story and a generally satisfying reading experience.
Although there were several spelling mistakes and typos, the rich, imaginative language shows that the author is not a stranger to literary fiction. Together with the great character portrayals and the complex relationships, it makes this mystery novel more than just a light read. The environmental issues and complicated politics linked to them create a believable background to the suspenseful murder mystery. In this light, the true motive behind the murders turned out to be a little surprising.
While the first half of the novel described little action and was almost exclusively based on Sandra gaining insight into the murder mystery through interviewing suspects and witnesses, the pacing never wavered. The suspense was, in this part, mostly based on the private emotions and ruminations of the protagonists, especially Sandra, and I felt that was done remarkably well. In the second part, the pace picked up and the plot rushed towards a shocking culmination. I liked how Sandra mused on the loose ends that the murder investigation hadn’t succeeded in resolving. It’s a sign of a good writer when they let fiction mimic the chaos of reality.
If you like your mysteries with a little more depth and literary quality, The Fourth Season won’t disappoint.

Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short ReviewsIt has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.