Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review of Eleven Days by Stav Sherez (Faber and Faber, 2013)

Eleven days before Christmas a fire guts a small convent in a residential area of West London.  Ten nuns are found dead in an upstairs room having seemingly made little effort to escape the inferno and an eleventh body is found in a confessional in the chapel.  DI Jack Carrigan is handpicked by Assistant Chief Constable Quinn, head of the Catholic Police Association, to investigate the case with instructions to wrap it up quickly.  However, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary case, the victims were no ordinary nuns, and the identity of the eleventh victim may provide the answer to solving the crime. While Carrigan pursues a line of inquiry concerning the nuns’ on-going battle with Albanian criminals operating near to the convent, DS Geneva Miller concentrates on the work of the nuns in Peru in the 1970s and their links to liberation theology.  Their progress is slowed by both internal politics and the church hierarchy, but Carrigan and Miller are determined coppers willing to confront difficult challenges.

Eleven Days is the second book in the Carrigan and Miller series.  Like the first book, Sherez uses the format of a police procedural and London’s diverse population to shine a light on fairly weighty political and social issues.  In this case, the political turmoil and violence in Peru during the 1970s and the role of liberation theology and the contemporary movement of Albanian criminals into London’s underworld and sex trafficking.  Both provide a menacing backdrop to Carrigan and Miller’s investigation into the death of ten nuns and an unknown young woman.  Hindering their investigation is the intransigence of the Catholic Church to share information about the nuns or their work and internal police politics.  The result is an engaging and compelling tale full of gritty realism in which the politics is a crucial element of the story but never overly dominates it at its expense.   Moreover, Carrigan and Miller make for an interesting pairing as they battle their own personal demons.  I wasn’t entirely convinced by the denouement, which I felt had one twist too many, but nonetheless a superior, thought-provoking, edge-of-seat police procedural that had me staying up late to keep the pages turning.

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