Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Reckoning by Jane Casey (Ebury Press, 2011)

DC Maeve Kerrigan has been paired with the abrasive DI Derwent to investigate the murders of two men previously convicted for sex offences who were killed within a few hours of each other.  It appears that someone is targeting paedophiles and torturing them mercilessly before killing them.  In both cases, the men claimed to be innocent and they had managed to maintain the support of others, and since leaving prison had kept a low profile.  When a third body turns up it’s clear that someone has access to highly restricted records and that they’re moving quickly.  The challenge is not only catching the killer, but protecting his future potential victims.  Kerrigan and Derwent are determined to achieve both, but they have an awkward and fractious relationship.  Moreover, Kerrigan has a messy love life with another member of the squad that’s proving to be a distraction.  Just as they seem to crack the case it veers off on a perpendicular trajectory, with the stakes and pressure raised to another level.

I found The Reckoning to be somewhat of a curious read.  At one level, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.  The writing was engaging, the procedural elements are well done, there’s a nice mix of characters, and the plot has a nice puzzle.  The twist halfway through was well executed and worked to elevate the plot above usual police procedural fare.  That said, the story was a little uneven in pacing, was a little clichéd in terms of character traits (the world weary superintendent, over-bearing, misogynist DI, headstrong DC, etc), though this is becoming difficult to avoid in a saturated genre, and there were a couple of clunky plot devices.  Kerrigan’s romance with her colleague, Rob, was often drawn out and worked to slow the storytelling at times (e.g., pages 90-123 is basically a set of conversations between them that could have been 8-10 pages and still have conveyed the same sentiments).  Moreover, her inability to commit to a relationship with him seemed contrived and a little ridiculous -- it made her appear as a serious, committed copper with a Bridget Jones complex that I just didn’t fully buy.  As the story neared its conclusion it relies on two elements that I always find somewhat annoying (a highly unlikely coincidence and a critical piece of evidence being delivered on a platter for no discernible reason).  Finally, towards the end, the narrative swaps from Maeve’s perspective to Rob’s, but whereas Maeve’s voice is strong and compelling, Rob’s felt flat and lifeless.  I realise that sounds quite negative, but as noted, The Reckoning is enjoyable, compelling and clever; with a little editing it would have been a real standout.

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