Review: The Fourth Season by Dorothy Johnston

Title: The Fourth Season {Sandra Mahoney #4}

Author: Dorothy Johnston

Published: Wakefield Press November 2013

Status: Read from February 25 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

I was wary of accepting The Fourth Season for review as it is the final installment in a quartet of mysteries featuring Sandra Mahoney but I was assured it would work as a stand alone so I ignored my doubts, tempted by the setting and premise, and decided to go throw caution to the wind. In hindsight I should have trusted my intuition because though this novel is well written, I was frustrated by my lack of understanding of the lead protagonist, Sandra Mahoney.

Set in Australia’s capital, Canberra, the mystery central to the novel involves a murdered young woman, environmental activist and science student, Laila Fanshaw, her body found floating in Lake Burley Griffin. Private Investigator Sandra Mahoney is shocked to learn her husband, Ivan, is one of several suspects with no alibi for the time of Laila’s death. It seems he had imagined himself in love with the girl, but he refuses to discuss the situation with Sandra so when she is approached by another suspect desperate to clear his name she takes the case, hoping to prove both her client’s and her partner’s innocence.

Sandra isn’t sure what to make of the information she finds as she slowly uncovers a complex web of lies, betrayal and dark secrets. Initially she suspects environmental politics may have played a part in the murder but a second death twists the investigation in a whole new direction, one that leads back to her client.

The first person, present tense perspective has a noir-ish feel as Johnston combines Sandra’s methodical investigation with ruminations on life and her relationships but I struggled with the introspective nature of the narrative in part, I assume, because of my lack of familiarity with the protagonist. There was a lot I felt I didn’t understand about Sandra, from her relationship with Ivan and her children, to her professional status. What is obvious is that Sandra’s personal interest in the case bleeds into her professional obligations as she struggles with her clients secrets, her husband’s indifference and her children’s fears.

This is a literary mystery, lacking the pace, though not the intrigue of its more commercial counterparts. I can’t fault the writing but the style didn’t quite work for me and I don’t think it was right for me to start at the end, rather than the beginning.

Available to purchase from

Wakefield Press I Amazon AU I AmazonUS


I want to know what you think! Your comments are appreciated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s