The Reckoning is the second, after The Burning, in the Maeve Kerrigan series by Jane Casey. Now, although I’m well behind most bloggers in the Jane Casey series, it’s easily apparent that Casey is a very popular author among the crime fiction blogger set. So, to be honest, this review seems superfluous even before I write it!
It’s so long since I read The Burning that I’m not really able to compare the two, although from what I can remember it seems as though there’s a far better developed plot in this second book, as Casey finds her feet as a novelist (she also wrote a standalone crime novel prior to The Burning, called The Missing. Loved it too, but also don’t remember much apart from that!) The majority of the novel is from Maeve’s POV, although later in the book we get a few chapters in Rob’s voice, to reveal what happens on occasions when Maeve isn’t present; it also helps give us a flavour of him as an individual. In her personal life, Maeve is trying to stop seeing Rob (again – your guess is as good as mine as to why…!) and has just moved (again!), to a large house shared with a bizarre mix of people: a computer games reviewer, a dope-smoking landlord, an OTT actor from a kids’ TV series, and a couple more.
This novel essentially consists of two separate investigations, which end up seguing into one. The first involves the brutal torture and murder of paedophiles, all within a certain area. The torture and murders all reflect the crimes the victims committed: for example, a collector of child pornography has his eyes gouged out; a paedophile priest is burnt with heated rosary beads.
The trail left by PNC searches mean Police IT workers manage to identify the person who accessed a list of names, beginning with the initial victims, and get a copy of the rest of the list. The police decide to check on the health of them – and this results in DC Maeve Kerrigan and her opinionated, mouthy (and not unamusing!) new boss, DI Josh Derwent, a great new character, walking straight into the next torture scene. After some drama, the scene is secured, and, among the arrested, there’s a familiar face – Mr John Skinner, over from the Costa del Crime, where he’d been evading justice. He was on a family mission – his 14-year-old daughter Cheyenne had disappeared 5 days previously. Cunningly, the cops had held back on announcing much news on Cheyenne, hoping to tempt Skinner out of hiding in Spain and back into the UK to face outstanding charges. So what began as a murder investigation evolves into the case of a missing teenage girl.
Immediately prior to disappearing, Cheyenne had updated her social media to say she was going to a “pop-up club” – but who did she meet there that caused her disappearance? Maeve’s team combine with the Missing Persons unit, and decide to visit the warehouse where the club night was held. There is what they’d feared finding since hearing about Cheyenne’s disappearance – her dead body, which had been replaced in the warehouse after the police search.
It’s the result of the post mortem that really shocks the team, though, as Cheyenne wasn’t murdered – she died from an asthma attack. (My son has mild asthma, and, at 21 and always in a big hurry, is dreadful at not taking an inhaler out with him, so I found this part really tragic.) Also, there’s saliva on Cheyenne’s hand – but it belongs to a woman who’s been missing for 18 months. Just how did it get there?
This is when the investigation really heats up, and of course, when left behind on the trip to arrest suspects, Maeve heads off on what should be a cursory investigation of a house belonging to a relative of the arrestee. She is accompanied by DC Liv Bowen, who has been working with Rob, and of whom Maeve was initially jealous. However, at the house, the two women find far more than they bargained for…
I love Maeve Kerrigan, and can’t wait to get into the next book in the series. Jane Casey almost gives you two-books-in-one, with the initial paedophile case leading into another investigation altogether. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also a subplot involving Maeve being stalked. Casey is really finding her feet as an author when it comes to plotting, taking her time with it. All the characters are well fleshed out, even the most minor, although Maeve, and Rob, are the ones we obviously get to know best. Unlike many “romances” in police procedurals, theirs doesn’t feel “tacked on” to make up the word count.
I’m aware I’m pretty much preaching to the converted here; indeed, most of you are probably way ahead of me when it comes to the Maeve Kerrigan series. But if there’s anyone out there reading this who’s missed this series, do grab a copy of The Burning – although that’s not to say The Reckoning doesn’t work fine as a standalone, as it’s not hard to pick up on who’s who. But Casey’s characters, and their interactions with each other, work best when you read the books in sequence – I’m especially looking forward to getting to know DI Josh Derwent, who’s Maeve’s new boss and quite an interesting character. And, of course, I’m dying to know what happens between Maeve and Rob. So, once I finish my current reads, I’ll be diving into The Last Girl.