Title: The Burning
Author: Jane Casey
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Maeve Kerrigan is a woman in a man’s world, the only female on the murder task force in London. Her male colleagues don’t make it easy for her to fit in, but Maeve does her best to ignore them and focus on her job, especially considering there is a serial killer on the loose who is targeting women. When the body of Rebecca Haworth is discovered, Maeve takes it upon herself to learn about the victim and investigate her murder, but the more she learns, the more she is convinced that this is a copycat murder that has nothing to do with the serial killer they are hunting.
The Burning is the first novel in a crime fiction series starring detective constable Maeve Kerrigan. Maeve is a sympathetic character, and Casey really takes the reader into her head over the course of the book. Readers can’t help but feel anger on Maeve’s behalf as they see what she endures on a daily basis. She has no support from anyone – her boyfriend is uninterested in her career, her parents don’t understand it, and her fellow detectives objectify and disrespect her on a daily basis. She must fight to prove herself just because of her gender, and she does a great job with it, demonstrating how empathy with a victim can be a good thing. Maeve becomes determined to find Rebecca’s killer, convinced that it is unrelated to the serial killing spree.
The novel is told from two points of view – Maeve’s and Louise’s. Louise is Rebecca’s best friend, a cold, difficult woman on the surface. She works with the police in order to find Rebecca’s killer, but it’s in the sections she narrates that the reader really sees into Louise. It works well because she is so guarded on the surface, so it allows the reader to get to know Louise.
Moving at a brisk pace, The Burning never becomes dry or dull. Casey deals with the two plotlines – Rebecca’s and the serial killer’s – well, and the two overlap and diverge as necessary to keep the novel flowing. I appreciate that the author didn’t feel like she needed to include unnecessary twists and turns to keep the reader hooked; instead, she does it on the merit of the storytelling. As a result, the book is straightforward, and while not necessarily predictable, it does follow a logical course.
I really enjoyed The Burning and look forward to revisiting Maeve in future novels. She’s a great, well-developed main character, and while I do hope she finds her department easier to work with, that tension makes for great storytelling. It’ll be interesting to see what Maeve is up to next.