After the Fire (Maeve Kerrigan 6) by Jane Casey

Maeve goes maverick…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

after the fireA fire in a block of flats leaves three people dead and one little girl terribly injured. The fire inspectors suspect it may have been arson and, when it turns out that one of the victims was a much-hated politician who had no known reason to be in the building, it looks as though murder may have been the aim. But as Maeve Kerrigan and the team begin to investigate, they discover that many of the residents have secrets, and that there is more than one possible motive for the arson.

This is another strong entry in the Maeve Kerrigan series, with a complex and interesting plot and Casey’s trademark ‘fair play’ – the clues are all there, though the reader will probably only spot them after the solution is revealed. The setting of the block of flats allows Casey to develop several different story strands for the various residents, and she handles them with aplomb, making sure that each is brought to a satisfying conclusion. Two of the victims are women who have been trafficked into the sex trade; one is a lonely old woman, almost a prisoner in her flat because of the constantly-broken lift; another is in hiding with her young son from her abusive husband. Then there’s the extended family who seem to be under the thumb of their elderly matriarch, and who are suspiciously well-off considering none of them seem to have legitimate jobs. Maeve, working again in partnership with Josh Derwent, must try to discover which of them was the target, in case the ‘wrong’ people died and the intended victim might still be in danger.

The running sub-plot regarding Maeve’s stalker also continues in the background, and I fear in this storyline Maeve seems to be turning into a traditional maverick copper, willing to bend or break the rules and use – or instigate – violence even when it seems unnecessary. There’s also a lot more angst in this than in the earlier books, with Maeve’s personal life having taken a nose-dive. In fact, she doesn’t actually seem to have a personal life any more – not even the fun phone messages from her mother. But then, I accept I seem to be in a small minority – of reviewers, certainly, though I’m less sure about the wider group of readers – who prefer their detectives not to be more messed up and violent than the criminals.

For the most part, however, the book concentrates on the main plot regarding the fire, and is at its strongest when it does, with Maeve behaving as the competent, team-playing officer she has always been. Una Burt is now in charge, and she and Maeve are beginning to appreciate each other a little more now that they’re working more closely. Casey is always excellent at characterisation, and not just of the main characters. Each of the residents in the flats is well-drawn – she gives us enough information to make us care about them (or dislike them, as appropriate) without bogging us down in endlessly detailed backstories.

Jane Casey
Jane Casey

The Maeve/Josh relationship is developed further, becoming something that feels almost dark as Maeve leans more and more heavily on this bullying, sexist, macho man, who is the only person she confides in, and who seems to have appointed himself her guardian and watchdog, telling her how to run her life outside work as well as in. I’m not at all sure where Casey is heading with it (hopefully not towards romance!), but it’s intriguing, especially the way Maeve appears to be allowing him to control her. He seems as much of a stalker as her stalker at points, but at least this means he’s always at hand to rescue her from the difficulties she’s constantly getting herself into. In their lighter moments, however, the pair still provide the humour that lifts the tone of the book and keeps it an enjoyable read despite the darker and more maverick elements.

Overall, another strong outing that I am sure most fans will thoroughly enjoy. Because of the running storylines I would suggest that anyone new to the series should read them in order, starting with The Burning.

Book 1 of my 20 Books of Summer
Book 3 of my 20 Books of Summer

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32 thoughts on “After the Fire (Maeve Kerrigan 6) by Jane Casey

  1. Sounds like a great book! I am not familiar with the series but now it is definitely on my radar. Also – I think the Josh fellow is actually the stalker. Just a hunch.


    • It’s been a great series so far – one of my favourites – so you have some good reading ahead. Haha! I must admit I was finding Josh considerably weirder and more threatening than the actual stalker for most of the time – and yet loads of people seem to want to pair Maeve off with him! Whatever happened to feminism??


  2. I think I’m due to read The Last Girl next. Which means it’ll be ages before I get to this one. Dash! Great review – I must admit I was found of the mother’s phone calls (usually deciphered by the brother!) too!


    • I really liked The Last Girl – it almost had elements of the Golden Age style of crime with a limited suspect list. Yes, I loved Maeve’s normality and the light tone of the books in the early ones, and am sorry she’s turning into yet another angst-ridden maverick. Still, at least she hasn’t taken to drink… yet! 😉


  3. I’m glad you enjoyed this for the most part, FictionFan, even if Maeve isn’t quite as functional here as she is in earlier entries. I couldn’t agree with you more, by the way, about fictional sleuths. We all have problems, issues, ‘baggage’ and the like, and it makes a lot of sense that fictional detectives would, too. That just makes them human. But I am getting weary of the completely dysfunctional fictional sleuth who is, as you say, more violent than the ‘bad guys.’ Still, this is a fine series, and I do like Maeve as a character overall.


    • As you know, I’ve loved this series and championed it since it’s beginning. And I still think it’s one of the best current series. But I’m afraid that just makes me more disappointed to see Maeve get stuck in the over-used groove of angst-ridden maverick detective, especially using violence. But *sighs* sadly that seems to be the way of nearly all crime fiction now. The genre seems to be stuck in a rut with the personal traumas of the detectives taking precedence over the mystery/detection element, and the solution to everything being to beat someone up. I think I’m nearly done with modern crime… and I suspect that’s why these types of detectives get almost unanimously glowing reviews. Those of us who don’t enjoy them just look elsewhere in the end. Hence the rise of the cosy and the massive reprinting of classic crime – well, that’s my opinion, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • …and it makes sense, FictionFan. It’s one of the reasons I’m so pleased when a novel that takes a different approach gets good reviews. I truly hope Casey isn’t going to take this too far; as you say, it’s such a good series. I suppose we shall have to see…


  4. OK, I’m having a big sigh of relief that you liked this one well enough. My copy is even now winging it’s way to me (had a long way to come). I can see that Maeve might be a little off in this book, thinking of some of the things that went on in the last one. And, yes, I’m one of the big fans of Derwent, but I do think that he has shown vulnerability in the past. Mostly to Maeve. It’s a give and take with them. And no, I’m not hoping for a romance with them. They work too closely together and that is difficult to engender well in a series. My thoughts will follow after my book finally arrives and I get it read. More to come. 🙂


    • I do still think this is one of the best series going, despite my disappointment that Maeve seems to be heading down the same old road of angst-ridden maverick. What I loved most about her was her refreshing normality. But the main plot is excellent as always, and I like that Casey has ‘proper’ mysteries with clues! I’ll be interested to see what you make of this one – I felt there was a significant shift in the Josh/Maeve relationship. They used to be a kind of odd couple comedy team, providing some light relief, but this time round it didn’t feel that way to me. But maybe it’s me…


  5. Yes, when the detectives are just as or more messed up as the people they’re trying to bust, I tend to look for a different book where this isn’t the case. I guess I’m not prepared for that much reality. But what really got my attention was that a man gets a woman out of the precarious situations she’s always getting herself into. THAT sounds dated and weak. There have been discussions elsewhere about the backslide of strong women in Hollywood, another role-model-making venue. Children’s author, Deborah Underwood’s example: “Jurassic Park, 1993: Main female character is a sympathetic paleobotanist who wears sensible work clothes. One of the two kid characters is a girl whose Unix skills save everyone’s butts.
    Jurassic World, 2015: Main female character is a fairly unsympathetic administrator who wears a white dress and three-inch heels and when she’s whacked by a dinosaur, she manages to fall in a pin-up pose. Kid characters are both boys. The three other women’s (minimal) speaking roles are a weepy mom, a snooty assistant, and a woman in the control room.”


    • I’m not even convinced it is reality. Sure there are real life maverick policemen (and I know the US has been having a spate of police shootings recently). But I’m betting most police officers are like the rest of us – trying to do their jobs as best they can.

      Haha! You can see right through my reviews, can’t you? I nearly called her a ‘silly little girlie’ in that sentence – I don’t know what’s happened to her, but putting herself in unnecessary peril time after time and then crying for big tough manly Josh to get her out of it and beat people up for her isn’t the Maeve I grew to love! I absolutely accept that on the whole men are physically stronger than women but isn’t it possible to plot books so that physical strength isn’t seen as the solution to everything? But, you know, nearly every fan of these books – and they’re mostly female – seems to just love Josh and half of them seem to think Maeve should fall in love with him. I loved him too, when he was a comedy caricature of a male chauvinist pig for us to laugh at, but now it feels as though we’re supposed to take him seriously as a hero figure. Ye gods! And when you see the zillions of romance novels on NetGalley, all with pictures of big, manly, muscled, shirtless heroes, and small, adoring, girly women in floaty frocks and heels (or barefoot), I despair, I tell you! Despair!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fantastic comment, FF. I’m not as far along in the series, but disappointing if she’s losing her independent spirit. If it’s not women being crime victims, are we now going to see our favourite heroines needing a man to get her out of trouble every time?

        Oh these NetGalley covers – they’re so dire! Masterclass in how to make me avoid a book. All these rippling torsoes….who on earth reads them?!


        • Don’t let me put you off – as you know, I’m very picky! Really I object more to the idea of violence being the answer to every problem – I don’t remember Miss Marple having to be a black belt in ju-jitsu, do you… 😉

          Oddly I think loads of people must read them – there are so many of them! Frightening…


  6. Someday I’ll start this series. I’ve got a couple on Kindle, but somehow they don’t ever seem to make it to the top of the list.


    • You should try to read them sometime – despite my disappointment with Maeve’s descent to standard maverick, the early books are great. And so is this one, much better than most – just heading in a direction I’m bored with. But in the early ones, Maeve’s normality is a breath of fresh air in the crime fiction field.


    • No, I’d say these were much lighter in tone, though getting more angsty as they go along. That’s not to suggest they’re ‘cosy’ – definitely too meaty for that. But there’s quite a lot of humour in them alongside some quite strong plots. Definitely a series I recommend!


  7. I loved your review but your responses to some of the comments were more amusing! Yes – I know.. as much as I love Josh, Maeve does need to get a grip at times – but didn’t you love that scene where he showed us what a lovely man he really is??


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