'The Fourth Season is anything but formula writing: it blends in philosophy and life associations and thus its plot incorporates far deeper significance than your usual 'whodunnit' focus on methods and perps alone.
Sandra Mahoney is a private investigator who finds personal meaning in the discovery of a floating body: a body which was once her partner's lover, making Ivan an immediate suspect, with no alibi.
To complicate matters further, she's investigating a second murder AND juggling the needs of two children. There's a lot of emotional reaction on all sides.
Dorothy Johnston should be commended, first of all, for using the first person as a vehicle for presenting these emotions. It brings out inner feelings without the distance of using the third person and it adds fire and passion to her story: "What does it mean to be told too little? What does this particular lack mean to an adolescent boy, or to his mother, who happens to be a person endeavouring to make her living by collecting information?"
As events unfold and add layers of complexity to Sandra Mahoney's life, they successfully engross readers in not just a singular murder investigation, but a unified survey of everyone emotionally shaken by death. It's this approach that makes The Fourth Season a powerfully different story, highly recommended for any who seek more complexity in their murder reading.
Oh, and if you think you need previous background from the other books in the quartet, be advised: this stands well on its own. Also be advised: once you read The Fourth Season you most likely WILL want to pick up the others to see what you missed!'
This review is a shorter version of the one that appeared in MBR Bookwatch, March 2014, reviewer Diane Donovan
From the Author
The Fourth Season
is the fourth book in my Sandra Mahoney quartet, set in Canberra, Australia's national capital, in the season of autumn. Each book in the quartet is set during a particular season. The other three are The Trojan Dog
, winter, The White Tower
, spring, and Eden
The Fourth Season begins with one 'death by water', closely followed by a second. The body of a young woman is found floating in Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra's artificial lake, and then a young man is found in Dickson swimming pool. Both the lake and the pool are well known to me. I lived in Canberra for thirty years, and spent many summers at the pool with my children. It was interesting the way these places changed when I described them from the point of view of a murder investigation. They will never be the same to me. Another aspect of writing the book that I found interesting was researching environmental politics at a national level. People involved in policy-making generously gave their time to talk to me.