Confession - no, not for stalking this time, in fact the opposite..... I know, it's much worse. I heard Jane Casey speak at the Killer Women Crime Festival (October 2016 killerwomen.org) and knew I had to read one of her books but I've only just got around to it.........and I haven't read any previous Detective Maeve Kerrigan books and this in number 7 in the series.......
I know, I told you it was bad!
However, I am a convert and will be seeking penance by reading the other 6 titles as soon as my TBR pile will allow! But for any others in the same position as me (I won't make you announce it on social media, don't worry!) I have to say that coming to this novel without any prior knowledge of the detective series didn't seem to matter and certainly didn't affect my enjoyment or understanding of the story. And it's always a treat to discover a 'new' author with a satisfyingly large back catalogue to indulge in!
I was totally gripped by the opening of this book. It was so horrifically unnerving, so gruesome, so visual and so confusing. It is graphic and would make any hardened horror fan hide behind their kindle cover.
Chloe Emery arrives home - Chloe a girl who "wasn't supposed to be at home," a girl who doesn't know things "other people took for granted," a girl who gets into a car with a neighbour but seems distinctly uncomfortable......to find her mother missing and the house completely covered in blood. It looks like a terrible murder has taken place except that there is no body. The first chapter is utterly compelling and quite simply, fantastic. I was hooked. This was a murder story I could not afford to ignore!
Leaving us falling off the edge of our seats, Casey begins Chapter 2 by introducing us to our protagonist who narrates the story. Detective Maeve Kerrigan. I took to her straight away. I liked her directness, her frank and plain speaking.
"We are murder detectives. By the time we turn up at a crime scene, by definition, nothing can be done to save anyone. So what's the rush?"
This voice is a great contrast to the opening chapter. Chloe's story had left me feeling a little unsure as there was something I couldn't fathom about her voice (a deliberate ploy by Casey we find out later) but as soon as I was in the hands of Kerrigan I felt confident and reassured.
"I didn't look like a murder detective, I'd been told. Too pretty, they said. Not tough enough. Too tall. Such nonsense."
Yes. This detective is going to get the job done. I believe in her and I like her.
"Fear hung in the air like smoke. Don't think about it now. The facts came first. The emotions would come later."
As the narrative unfolded Casey reveals more about Chloe and we see that this unease about her behaviour and actions at the beginning of the story are very intentional. Chloe has some learning and behavioural difficulties which create a further layer on tension as the detectives try to solve the mystery of her missing mother and the blood bath to which she returned home.
"'Speech delay. Developmental delay. Attention deficit disorder. Anxiety. Oppositional defiant disorder.' Derwent snorted. 'That just means you don't like doing what you're told.'"
There are a lot of wry comments in the novel and as with all compelling police procedurals there is an entertaining dynamic between the detectives. These are intelligent, three dimensional characters who are experienced and who will be able to uncover the truth however confusing and however many unsavoury characters they come across.
Kerrigan and her colleagues investigate the neighbours who all seem to have motives against the missing Kate Emery. The Norrises behave suspiciously and their daughter definitely seems to have something to hide. And what about William Turner, already with a history of violence and a reputation of criminal behaviour? As the investigation to solve an apparent murder without a body continues, more and more pieces of a jigsaw fall on to the table and it's only by working out who is lying and who is telling the truth that Kerrigan and her team have any hope of solving the crime and preventing any more deaths.
I found Let the Dead Speak much more character driven than I expected. Each character has depth and each makes starling revelations which show just how complex and clever Casey's crime thriller is. The beginning and the ending are amazingly jaw dropping but the bulk of the novel is given over to characters and looking at what drives people to behave in certain ways. Rather than a constant bombardment of sensationalist shocks and surprises, this book is full of 'ooohhhh' moments when you rub you hands together with glee and watch with baited breath as the story ties itself up in knots and Kerrigan tries to untangle it.
"You spent a few hours judging someone else for how they lived and it gave you perspective on your own life, whether you wanted it or not."
I found it fascinating watching how the each of the revelations lead to peeling back more and more layers. There is depth to this novel and it is an excellent, dramatic thriller. As I have said already, I loved the opening and yet the ending is also as fantastic - it is as hard hitting, unnerving and chilling and as much of a cliffhanger as the first chapter.
I picked this book because I was intrigued by the title and had read a sample opening. The premise is captivating. Kerrigan is a likeable, relatable, intelligent character. But most of all this book surprised me in that it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It surprised me, it intrigued me, it baffled me and it completely impressed me. It was better than anything I was expecting. It is a clever, multilayered plot which packs a good punch and leaves you gasping. As one of the characters says themselves:
"Nothing works out the way you think it will does it?"
I'm off. I've got 6 books to go back and binge read as I can't wait to see Maeve Kerrigan in action again and read more of Casey's thrilling crime novels.
Let the Dead Speak is published on 9th March 2017 by Harper Collins
To read my blog posts on Jane Casey from the Killer Women Crime Fest please click on the links below:
Killer Women Crime Festival: inside the killer's head
killer women crime festival 2016: my review
“All my criminal elements have some basis in reality, no matter how awful they may be. Nothing is completely farfetched.”
Crime is a family affair for Jane Casey. Married to a criminal barrister, she has a unique insight into the brutal underbelly of urban life, from the smell of a police cell to the darkest motives of a serial killer.
This gritty realism has made her books international bestsellers and critical successes; while D.C. Maeve Kerrigan has quickly become one of the most popular characters in crime fiction.
Her novel The Stranger You Know won the Mary Higgins Clark Award and she has also been shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award four times as well as the CWA Dagger in the Library Award.
You can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)