Cruel Acts (Maeve Kerrigan 8) by Jane Casey

A thriller, a chiller and a serial killer…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Leo Stone was convicted of killing two women and sentenced to life imprisonment. But now one of the jurors has revealed that the jury broke the rules and as a result his conviction is certain to be overturned when it comes before the Appeals Court. There will be a retrial, but Superintendent Godley wants to make certain that he’s convicted again, so Detective Sergeant Maeve Kerrigan and Detective Inspector Josh Derwent are assigned to reinvestigate the case and to find more evidence if they can. Maeve quickly discovers in the files that there was a third woman who may have been a victim of Stone’s too, but he was never charged with her murder for lack of evidence. Maeve’s sense of empathy for this victim makes her determined to find out the truth of what happened to her too. In the midst of the investigation, after Stone has been released, another woman goes missing…

Well, it’s been a long wait for this latest instalment in Jane Casey’s excellent Maeve Kerrigan series, but this is well worth waiting for. As always, it’s told in the first person (past tense) by Maeve, so that we get her often humorous take on the people around her, especially Derwent. Their relationship has settled into a rather more equal friendship now that Maeve is more experienced, but that doesn’t stop Derwent from lecturing her about her personal life, being over-protective, embarrassing her at every opportunity and generally winding her up. For all that, she knows there’s no-one she’d rather have beside her when things get dangerous.

The other regulars are back too. Una Burt, Maeve’s boss, still doesn’t much like her and the feeling is mutual. Liv appears a bit more in this one – another colleague and Maeve’s best friend. Godley is back, though he plays only a small role. Maeve still looks up to him, but in a more mature way than the hero-worship she felt for him in the early days. And the new girl on the team, Georgia, is back too, just as obnoxious, and just as jealous of Maeve’s success. Followers of the series are doubtless thinking, yes, but what about Maeve’s love life? Is Rob back? Or is there a new man on the scene? Or are Maeve and Josh…? You don’t really expect me to tell you though, do you? 😉

In general, I’m not wild about serial killer stories and helpless females being tortured and killed, but I was right to trust Casey to handle it with her usual sensitivity and good taste. Although women are killed, the reader is not put in the room with them as it’s happening – there’s nothing prurient or gratuitous in the writing; no lengthy descriptions of torture scenes designed to titillate. That doesn’t stop it from being heart-in-mouth thrilling and chilling at points, though. The prologue is wonderfully scary and the thriller ending is tense and dramatic, with several scenes dotted throughout that also had my anxiety levels rocketing.

When it turns out that Leo Stone has an alibi for the time of the latest disappearance, Maeve and Derwent have to consider whether he was innocent of the earlier murders or if there’s a copycat out there. I thoroughly enjoyed the plotting in this one. I didn’t work it out – I rarely do – but all the clues are there. I always think that Casey plots like a Golden Age author, giving the reader a fair chance to do a bit of armchair detecting, although in every other respect her stories and characters are entirely modern.

Jane Casey

I also love that Maeve tries hard to stay within the rules. While her personal life might be a bit complicated, she’s no angst-ridden maverick. The same goes for her colleagues, in fact – they’re probably the most realistic police team I can think of, and while there are petty jealousies and squabbles, they behave overall like the kind of professional force I’d like to think we actually have. The women are not always struggling to be taken seriously by sexist bosses, which delights me since I think it’s such an out-dated image in most of our public services now, and completely overused in crime fiction. Casey simply has men and women working together as a team as if… gasp… it’s normal! But she still allows room for a bit of banter and the occasional flirtation, and she doesn’t feel the need to make the women superheroes or the men weaklings.

While this could easily be read as a standalone, I do recommend reading this series in order to get the full nuances of all the various relationships within the team, and especially to understand Maeve and Josh’s complicated friendship. For existing fans, you’re in for a treat with this one – isn’t it great to have Maeve back? Highly recommended, and I sincerely hope Ms Casey is hard at work on the next one…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

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35 thoughts on “Cruel Acts (Maeve Kerrigan 8) by Jane Casey

  1. Now, why am I not surprised you liked this one as well as you did, FictionFan? It’s funny, I don’t usually go for the serial killer motif, myself in novels. But some authors can do it very well, and Casey is one of them. And, yes, there is something about that ‘regular cast of characters,’ isn’t there? I’m glad to hear the wait was worth it.

    • So many authors use the serial killer thing to thrill, which I always find a bit distasteful. But Casey keeps a sufficient distance from the gruesome details to stop it from feeling as if it’s too voyeuristic. And I do love Maeve and her colleagues… even Josh!! 😀

    • I haven’t read the Prime Suspect books but loved the TV series. These might be just a touch lighter – there’s slightly more humour and less angst, though they’re not at all cosy…

  2. Despite your assurance it can be read as a stand-alone, I have to read series from the beginning. As good as it sounds, I’m not allowing myself to be tempted. 😉

    • Ah, well, I’ll just keep going on about them until you finally crack and go crawling on your knees to your nearest bookshop, begging for the first one… it’s for your own good, though! 😉

  3. Gosh, how have I missed this series??? Sounds as if I need to play catch up. Thanks for putting me onto another author I’ve not encountered before.

    • This is one of my favourite series – real day-of-publication reads for me… if not before! If you do get a chance to read them sometime, I hope you enjoy them! 😀

  4. This sounds like a great series! I’ve never heard of it before (except maybe through your earlier blog posts) but I can see why you like it. The whole ‘sexism on the police force’ is a complicated concept. Although I’m sick of it being included in novels (it’s definitely overused!) I wonder if it’s still very common in real life. Not being a police office, I have no idea! (thank god)

    • It’s one of my favourite series – a real day-of-publication series for me, if not before! Yeah, I’m sure there are still way too many instances of sexism, and racism, homophobia, etc., but our public services especially have done a lot of work for decades now to eradicate “isms” from being institutional, so it always feels outdated to me. Even our top police officer in the UK is a woman now, and (almost) nobody thinks it’s the least bit odd. I felt her gender was barely even commented on when she got the job, except perhaps as a matter of pride as to how far we’ve come. Our private sector is much more likely to still have regular sexism built in…

      • oh definitely!!!! That’s pretty cool your top police officer is a woman. Actually, when I think about it, I don’t believe Canada has a top police officer, although maybe we call it something different over here…

        • We have loads of women in top positions these days, including our Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland. And the leader of the opposition in Scotland is also female, gay and married! So I get a bit fed up of women over here talking as if we’re still in the Victorian era… 😉

            • I was laughing at one of our debates at the last election. There were seven people on it from all across the political spectrum. Four women, of whom two were gay, one gay man, a bi man, and one man I assumed was straight, though I actually didn’t know that for sure! Admittedly they were all white… 😉

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