I have a small list of writers whose new books go on order at the library the moment they are available on the catalogue. Jane Casey is one of these. I wasn’t certain when I initially read her that this was going to be the case. Her first novel, The Missing, was a standalone piece that I found very disturbing, but once she launched out onto the Maeve Kerrigan series, about a DC with a London murder squad, I was hooked.
Maeve, possibly like Casey herself, is of Irish stock and has the tempestuous nature to go with it. She also has a sharp and quirky sense of humour and it’s this which lifts these books out of the ordinary and makes them bearable. Bearable, because the crimes committed are never simple murder (if there is such a thing). In the first in the sequence, The Burning, not only are women being murdered they are also then being burnt beyond recognition. In this book, when the victim has been strangled, their eyes are then cut out and place one in either hand. It isn’t always easy reading, but the humour, always at the polices’ expense, never the victims’, lightens the load and the fact that Maeve doesn’t take herself too seriously allows the reader to take a step back as well.
As in many police procedurals where the chief protagonist occupies one of the lower ranks in the CID, Maeve is something of a maverick; never more so than in this novel, where for a time the chief suspect appears to be one of her colleagues. Forbidden to speak about the case to the objectionable DI Derwent, Maeve suddenly finds that an order she would normally gladly follow is standing in the way of good detection and as a result puts herself and her career in jeopardy. In the acknowledgements Casey says that [t]he world is divided into those who like Derwent and those who don’t. I belong in the former category, but then I don’t have to work with him and can maintain enough distance to see what is happening in their relationship. If I was Maeve I would probably hit him over the head with the crutch he acquires during the course of the novel and worry about the consequences later.
The plot is well worked through with a number of false turns for both the police and the reader, but when the killer is finally revealed everything slides convincingly into place. I have only one quibble and it’s a personal one that probably won’t bother anyone else. Towards the end of the book, when Maeve has identified the murderer, a chapter ends:
And I’d prove it if it kills me, I thought, not having the least idea that it might actually do just that.
I do hate books that predict forward in this way. This was the only instance I noticed here, but some crime novels are riddled with such statements. The reason I am reading them is to find out what happens, when it happens, not to have half the pleasure taken away from me by the narrator’s twenty-twenty hindsight. But, as I say, this is a personal peeve of mine and I’m sure won’t bother others in the same way. Certainly, you shouldn’t let my grouch put you off making Maeve’s acquaintance if you haven’t already met her.