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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