Let the Dead Speak (Maeve Kerrigan 7) by Jane Casey

Maeve’s back!

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When Chloe Emery returns home early from a visit to her dad’s new family, she is horrified to find her house covered in blood and her mother missing. Maeve Kerrigan has been promoted to Detective Sergeant, and is called to the scene by Una Burt, who’s still acting head of the team. The sheer volume of blood suggests there’s no hope the victim could have survived, so they’re treating it as a murder case, with the first item on the agenda being to find the body.

I was quite unhappy with the way the previous book ended, with Maeve and Josh turning into typically unbelievable vigilante-style mavericks, so I’m delighted to say that in this one Maeve’s back on track. There are lots of reasons this series stands out from the herd, and one of the major ones is Maeve’s refreshing normality. Of course she’s affected by her experiences, but she’s basically a good cop who works well within a team and tries to stick within the rules as much as possible. And for my money, the books are better when she does.

Now that she’s a sergeant, Maeve has supervisory responsibilities and in this one is looking after the newest team member, Gloria, a graduate entrant. Maeve’s not finding it easy – Gloria’s pretty annoying, ready to feel herself slighted for the smallest reason. But she also seems ready to develop a bit of hero-worship for Josh and Maeve’s horrified to find herself feeling a little bit jealous. It’s professional jealousy though – Maeve is still hoping that she and Rob can get back together, and every girl’s favourite male chauvinist Josh (amazingly!) has his own little family now, having taken on the role of father to his girlfriend’s young son. (My mind still boggles at the idea of him giving the boy dating advice a few years from now!)

Plotting is another of Casey’s major strengths and this one is particularly convoluted. It soon transpires that the street is filled with people with secrets and jealousies, and Kate, Chloe’s mum, seems to have been at the centre of many of them. Chloe is staying with her friend Bethany and her parents, an ultra-religious family who belong to a church that’s not quite a cult, but is tending in that direction. Chloe herself is, perhaps, a bit slow intellectually – certainly her mother had been keen to have her diagnosed as such – but some people think she’s more intelligent than she seems. She’s also physically attractive, all of which makes her vulnerable to any unscrupulous predators she might meet.

Jane Casey

As always, the writing is excellent and there’s plenty of humour to lighten up the tone. It’s narrated by Maeve in the first person, past tense, so that we’re privy to her thoughts and her rather spiky comments about her colleagues. Her relationship with Josh is more equal now that she’s been promoted – he’s still her superior, but she’s no longer the new girl. He’s still just as protective towards her though, which she appreciates even though it annoys her sometimes. And it’s nice to see his softer side peeking through now that he has his little family to humanise him.

This one would work fine as a standalone, though as usual I’d recommend reading this series in order, starting with The Burning, to get the full benefit of the characterisation, and especially the development of Maeve’s unlikely friendship with Josh. Great to have them back in action, and here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long to see them again!

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

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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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The Kill (Maeve Kerrigan 5) by Jane Casey

the killAnother excellent instalment…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When an off-duty policeman is shot dead in his car it looks at first as though the motive must be something to do with his personal life. His widow seems angry rather than grief-stricken and his daughter has some unexplained bruises. But a few days later a team of officers is attacked while out on patrol and it becomes clear that someone is targeting the police in general. But no-one knows why…or do they? This is the fifth book in the Maeve Kerrigan series and continues the high standard that Jane Casey has set herself in the last couple. It might be possible to read this as a standalone, but there has been a developing story arc which comes to a head in this one, so I would strongly recommend that new readers should read the series in order (starting with The Burning).

Maeve and Josh Derwent are still working as a team and, despite their constant bickering, it’s obvious they’ve learned to respect and trust each other. Derwent is the ultimate male chauvinist pig, but he’s also loyal to the people he cares about and has a strong moral code of his own, not to mention being very funny on occasion – so, like Maeve, the dedicated reader has learned to put up with his sexist taunting, and has grown to like him despite his awfulness. Maeve’s long-term boyfriend Rob plays a small but important role in this one, but in general he’s faded rather into the background in the last couple of books as Derwent has come more to the fore.

Maeve is the same strong and stubborn officer we have grown to love, still with that wicked streak of humour that comes through in the first-person narrative when we get to hear her opinions of those around her. It’s Maeve’s normality that makes her so refreshing – she works well as a team-player, is loyal to her colleagues (sometimes too loyal, perhaps) and tries hard to stay within the rules. One touch that I’ve always enjoyed about these books is her relationship with her mother, carried out mainly over the phone. Although Maeve spends most of her time trying to avoid unwanted maternal advice, it’s still her mother that she turns to when she needs some emotional support, and these occasional little interactions help to show Maeve as a rounded character with strong family roots.

Jane Casey
Jane Casey

The storyline in this one is strong and well plotted, with different strands that overlap in the investigation. The running plotline about Superintendent Godley is brought to what looks like a possible conclusion, for which I’m not sorry since it’s the one aspect of the books that I’ve had some serious credulity issues with. There are some dark and unsettling moments in the story and Casey writes these very well – she’s great at getting the balance right between the grittiness of the plot and the humour that is such a trademark feature of Maeve’s relationship with Derwent. And there are enough twists along the way to keep the reader guessing till near the end. Altogether, another excellent instalment that ensures this series remains one of my strong favourites. Highly recommended.

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

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Left for Dead (A Maeve Kerrigan Story) by Jane Casey

An extra treat…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

left for deadMaeve is 21, straight out of police college and finding her feet as the newest member of the team. Out on night shift patrol, she and her partner are sent to attend what sounds like a ‘domestic’ – until Maeve discovers a young woman, still alive, but horribly injured…

This novella-length story is a prequel to the excellent Maeve Kerrigan series, showing us Maeve at the beginning of her career, and the case that led to her meeting her future boss, Superintendent Charles Godley. The investigation element is fairly minimal, though enjoyable, and apart from Godley none of the later regulars are here. So no gorgeous Rob, sadly – but this leaves Maeve free to get entangled with another colleague. And we get an opportunity to see that Josh Derwent isn’t the only MCP in the Met.

It’s a steep learning curve for Maeve, but she holds her own and we see the feisty, funny personality that Casey develops so well in the full-length novels. A good introduction to anyone new to the series and an extra treat for die-hard fans.

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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…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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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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.