The Stranger You Know (Maeve Kerrigan 4) by Jane Casey

the stranger you knowGreat addition to a hugely enjoyable series…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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.”

Jane Casey
Jane Casey

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.

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The Last Girl (Maeve Kerrigan 3) by Jane Casey

Shades of Christie…

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the last girlMaeve Kerrigan is fast becoming established as one of the most enjoyable detectives in current crime fiction. Young and ambitious, with a normal life, no alcohol or drug problems, a lovely regular boyfriend and a family who love her – what a refreshing change from the usual diet of angst-ridden mavericks.

When Vita Kennford and her 15-year-old daughter Laura are found dead, Maeve and her colleagues have to decide whether they were the real targets or whether someone had been out to get revenge on Philip Kennford, amoral barrister and serial adulterer. This is in many ways a rather traditional detective story with suspicion falling on a small cast of suspects all connected to the victim in some way. Again a pleasant change from the serial killer/gangland crime that has overshadowed the murder mystery genre in recent years. There are shades of the Christie country house mystery here, and that’s high praise from a dedicated Christie fan like myself.

Jane Casey
Jane Casey

The book is told in the first person, so we are treated to a DC-eye view of detection and to Maeve’s rather wicked form of observational humour. We see Maeve’s relationships with her colleagues develop, particularly with her DI, Josh Derwent, an unreconstructed male chauvinist but with a soft side that makes him an enjoyable character nonetheless. There are a couple of running threads from the two previous Kerrigan books, The Burning and The Reckoning, so though this works well as a stand-alone novel, I would recommend new readers to read them in order to get the full background.

Jane Casey has now become one of those authors whose latest book is an anticipated treat and this one didn’t disappoint. With each successive book her style has developed and now shows a sure-footedness that makes me hope that Maeve Kerrigan will be with us for a long time to come. I’m greatly looking forward to the new one, The Stranger You Know, due out in July 2013.

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The Reckoning (Maeve Kerrigan 2) by Jane Casey

The ReckoningJoining the top ranks…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

With this book, Jane Casey has laid claim to her place in the ranks of the current detective fiction greats – Rankin, Bauer, Bolton. Her first novel The Missing was good, the second The Burning was very good and this third entry is better yet.

The plotting in this novel shows a clear improvement over the first two books. Complex and with original twists, Casey is not afraid to take us to very dark places but is also skilled enough to lighten the tone with some humour when needed. The book starts with the discovery of the bodies of two known paedophiles who have been tortured and then murdered. Is this the beginning of a serial killing spree or are there more complicated, perhaps even darker, motives at work? Casey keeps the plot moving at an impressive pace throughout and maintains suspense to the end.

Jane Casey(source: telegraph.co.uk)
Jane Casey
(source: telegraph.co.uk)
In Maeve Kerrigan, Casey has created a likeable, believable young detective with the intelligence, initiative and determination to go far. Maeve is refreshingly normal, as detectives go, and I hope the author lets her remain so. She has a life outside work, normal relationships with her family and an enjoyable romantic liaison with one of her colleagues, with all the minor problems and complications that come with that. More realistically than the lone maverick detective we all know so well, Maeve is a team player who works well with her colleagues and does her best to please her boss whom she both respects and admires.

If I have a criticism, it is that sometimes the author breaks away from Maeve’s first person narrative to show us the action from someone else’s perspective. While I can see that this is useful, since it would be unrealistic for one detective constable to be present at every scene, I do find it breaks the flow, and I’m not sure the different voices are distinctive enough. However, Casey has done this much less in this novel than in the previous ones, and that for me is a real improvement. In any case, this small point does not stop this from being an excellent read and I hope we see much more of Maeve in the years to come.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

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How to Fall (Jess Tennant 1) by Jane Casey

How to FallMystery, romance and humour… 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

It’s a year since Jess’s cousin Freya fell to her death from the cliffs in the small seaside town of Port Sentinel. Now 16-year-old Jess and her mother are visiting the town for the summer and Jess thinks the verdict of accidental death might not be telling the full story. So she begins to investigate, getting to know the other young people in the town and finding out about the relationships and jealousies that might have led to Freya’s death.

The book is told in the first person from Jess’s viewpoint. She is a strong character, intelligent, brave, beautiful (of course), stubborn and with a lot of Casey’s trademark humour. I enjoyed these elements of her character but felt that she also came over as incredibly nosey and pretty insensitive to other people’s feelings which made her hard to like as much as I felt we were supposed to. Some of the other characters felt a bit stereotyped and I was disappointed that YA fiction still seems to need the strong male to come along and rescue the girl from her obstinate folly a bit too often. On the other hand, the male in question was deep, super-handsome, the strong, silent type, and the romance element of the book worked very well, I thought.

Jane Casey
Jane Casey

This book is for Young Adults – I’d guess primarily for girls from about 12 up. Sadly, I haven’t been a young adult since back sometime in the last millennium so clearly not the target audience for this book. However I love Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series, which I must now assume are for Old Adults, so was interested to see how her style would work in this genre. Overall, I enjoyed the book and suspect I would have enjoyed it even more when I was a teenager. Casey’s writing is excellent as always and the plotting is strong. An entertaining read for people like me who have enjoyed Casey’s other work and are impatiently waiting for Maeve’s next outing; and highly recommended for the target group of YAs. I look forward to seeing some reviews from younger people to see what they think.

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The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan 1) by Jane Casey

The BurningGreat new detective on the block… 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

A young woman is found, savagely killed and then her body burned. Is this the work of the serial killer known as the Burning Man or a copy-cat? We follow the plot through the eyes alternatively of amibitious young DC Maeve Kerrigan and of the victim’s best friend, Louise.

Maeve is a very likeable character and I found her much more believable than most of the angst-ridden mavericks we have to contend with in crime fiction these days. She has a normal social life, loving parents and no obvious drink, drug or psychiatric problems. She respects and admires her boss, tries to stay within the rules and gets on with most of her colleagues. And she has a sharp wit and a good sense of humour. A great new entrant to the detective genre and one I hope to see again.

I loved the dialogue in this book, particularly the banter between Maeve and her colleagues. It sounds natural, just as people really speak to each other. And, since the book is written in the first person, we also get to share some of Maeve’s thoughts and insights – often very funny.

If you like Rankin, McDermid or Hill you should give this a try – highly recommended.

Amazon UK Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R23RSYCVKCBY2G?

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.