😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
One murder might be a one-off, two might be a coincidence, but a third means there’s a serial killer at work. Maeve Kerrigan is assigned to the investigating team and is shocked to discover that the chief suspect is Josh Derwent, her colleague and boss. OK, he’s an unreconstructed male chauvinist pig, he’s a bully and a womaniser but…a murderer? Maeve can’t believe it. At least, she almost can’t believe it – but this murderer is plausible, he gains the trust of his victims and his psychological profile does sound an awful lot like Derwent…and it seems this isn’t the first time he’s been a murder suspect…
When I try to pin down why I love the Maeve Kerrigan books so much, it comes down to two things – the characterisation and the humour. Yes, the plotting is good, the stories are complex enough to keep the reader guessing and the running story arcs add an extra layer of interest. But what lifts these books way, way above average is Casey’s skill at creating completely believable characters and giving them dialogue that is both witty and natural.
“‘…you should still be in hospital.’
‘Who told you that?’
‘It’s obvious,’ I said. ‘You look dreadful.’
‘Said the woman with bright red eyes and crazy hair. Fuck me, it’s like getting a lecture from Coco the Clown.’”
Derwent has been playing a bigger role in each book and is central to this one. Despite his flaws (of which there are many) he is great fun – he takes great pleasure in winding Maeve up but she’s getting better at giving as good as she gets. And beneath his macho act, there’s courage, loyalty and integrity and, like Maeve, the more we get to know him, the more we can’t help feeling a sneaking liking for him. They’ve become a true crime fiction double-act – maybe not Holmes and Watson, exactly, but perhaps Dalziel and Pascoe, or Rebus and Siobhan. But in this pairing the junior officer, Maeve, is very much the central character. Confident, ambitious and assertive on the outside, we get to see the mass of insecurities inside her head and to enjoy her often wickedly funny observations of her colleagues.
“Being lectured on politeness by Una Burt was like taking make-up advice from Barbara Cartland.”
It’s Maeve’s normality that I love most – her lovely boyfriend Rob isn’t in this one much, but he’s survived through three books now and their relationship is stronger than ever. She has a family whom she loves and who love her; we know her mother best through the frequent exasperated answerphone messages she leaves. And Maeve isn’t superwoman – she’s smart, good at her job and brave when she needs to be, but she knows her limitations and is strong enough to ask for help when she needs it. Oh, and she’s very likeable and very, very funny.
When a book is as eagerly anticipated as this one, it can be hard for it to live up to expectations but this one certainly does – a very fine addition to a hugely enjoyable series. This could easily be read as a standalone, but to fully understand the characters and running story arcs, it would be best to read them in order, starting with The Burning. And if you haven’t got to know Maeve and her colleagues yet, it really is time you did! Highly recommended.