Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review of After the Fire by Jane Casey (Ebury Press, 2015)

A fire rages through the top two floors of a tower block in North London. Two bodies are found in a locked flat on the top floor and at the base of the tower is the body of a notorious right-wing MP. In hospital a young girl and elderly woman fight for their lives and a mother fears for her safety now her location has been revealed to her estranged, abusive husband. It’s not clear to the Met how the fire started but first impressions are that it was deliberate. DC Maeve Kerrigan and her boss, DI Josh Derwent, are part of the investigative team. Derwent is at war with the overall investigation lead officer and Kerrigan has personal problems beyond work to deal with, but both are determined to discover what happened at the tower block and why. The problem is that everyone on the top two floors seems to have something to hide.

After the Fire is the sixth book in the Maeve Kerrigan series set in London. Kerrigan is a head strong detective in the Met police determined to make her mark and negotiate the internal politics and personal rivalries of the system. In this outing she is part of a large team investigating a fire in a North London tower block that leaves three people dead, including an infamous MP, and a handful of other residents in hospital. The strength of the story is the main plotline and the procedural elements, with Kerrigan and colleagues trying to piece together what happened and why. Several possible explanations emerge and each has to be verified or dismissed, made more challenging by many of the surviving residents having something to hide. As usual, Kerrigan nicely tussles with her domineering boss, DI Joss Derwent, as well as other members of the team. There is a secondary plot focusing on Kerrigan’s ongoing battle with a master cyber-criminal who is stalking her on- and offline. Personally, I’ve found this running plotline tedious and a distraction, and did so with this outing as well. In addition, at times the book becomes a little too egocentric in the narrative, entirely focused on Kerrigan and her life, rather than a more rounded account with respect to other characters. The result is some of the strands terminate and it’s left to the reader to wonder what happened subsequently to the characters involved. Otherwise, After the Fire is an absorbing and entertaining read, with a nice puzzle at its heart.

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