DC Maeve Kerrigan is part of a team working on the case a murder case: the case of a serial killer who is preying upon young women who venture out late at night in south London, killing them and then burning their bodies.
The media has labelled him The Burning Man.
Now that really doesn’t sound like my kind of book, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt, because I had read, and very much enjoyed, Jane Casey’s previous book, The Missing. I’m very glad that I did, because The Burning is a very good psychological crime novel, and a wonderful step forward from Jane Casey’s first book: that was good, but this one is better.
The news breaks in the early hours of the morning that The Burning Man has claimed his fifth victim. But there are doubts. Yes a woman lies dead, yes her body has been burned, but there are differences from the first four murders.
And so it is that Maeve finds herself responsible for investigating the background of Rebecca Haworth,the fifth dead woman.
The Burning is not the story of a serial killer but the story of one woman’s experience as that serial killer is sought. A human drama set around a murder investigation.
Maeve is new to the murder squad and eager to prove herself. Her family didn’t care for her choice of career but she loves her job, despite the anti-social hours, casual sexism, and ribbing about her Irish roots.
Character information came on a need-to-know basis, but it was enough. I liked Maeve, her warmth, her intelligence, the way she coped. I was quickly caught up as she investigated and interviewed friends, family, business associates of the dead woman.
The story that emerged was complex and captivating.
Most of the book is told from Maeve’s point of view, but there are also shorter chapters from the point of view of Louise, an old friend of the old woman. A contemporary of Maeve, but a very different woman, with a very different life. That gave the book another dimension, and helped to paint a better, clearer picture.
And at the very heart of this book was Rebecca, for me its most complex and most interesting character. Her story, much of which was unknown to and unexpected by those closest to her, was extraordinary and yet utterly credible.
There is high drama before the case is finally solved, by solid police work and just a little bit of luck.
It wasn’t surprising, but that wasn’t important. You see, I was hooked by those three women and their stories, and so the how and the why, completing their stories, was just as important as the who.
The conclusion worked perfectly. It was quiet, but very, very effective, and there was a nice little sting in the tale.
And now I’m looking forward to Jane Casey’s next book …
The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.
“Each week, beginning Monday 10 January 2011, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”
So next week, K is for … ?