After the Fire
Maeve Kerrigan Novels #6
Minotaur Books, May 2016
From the publisher—
London police detective Maeve Kerrigan has spent plenty of time at Murchison House. One of the many cement high-rise towers comprising the Maudling Estate housing project, Murchison House is home to a motley mix of society. From domestic abuse victims and elderly widows with nowhere else to turn to its flourishing criminal elements, Maeve is familiar with many of its occupants by name or reputation.
But when a fire breaks out at Murchison House that consumes the top floors and leaves three dead, Maeve and her colleagues are startled to learn the identity of one of the victims. Geoff Armstrong was a wealthy, notoriously right-wing London politician―the last person they’d expect to find in a place like the Maudling Estate. And things get even murkier when evidence surfaces indicating Armstrong was murdered before the fire broke out. Was his death connected to the fire? To the other deaths at Murchison House? And what was he doing there in the first place? What Maeve begins to uncover will lead her on a terrifying journey through all levels of society, putting her very life in danger.
A wide variety of people lead dreary lives in Murchison House, from the lonely widow to the girls whose bodies are sold by cruel men to those who are running from something but was the fire that day intended to cover up a murder? Why was such a high-profile person in such a place and why is he dead?
Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the Murder Squad ask questions, a lot of them, and their questions begin to lead them in unexpected directions. Probably the most intriguing aspect of the investigation, at least to me, is the dichotomy found amongst all the different tenants—or temporary occupants—of this council house and it’s easy to feel a good deal of empathy for many of these people for one reason or another. Such diversity also makes the detectives’ jobs all that much more difficult and, when the truth comes out, there is nothing left but tragedy.
Maeve herself is one of my favorite female police detectives for a lot of reasons, not least of which is her ability to lead and yet be an integral part of her squad without the annoying characteristics so often found in such characters. Maeve is intelligent, forthright, considerate of others and has a sense of humor, the latter being pretty important because she has her clumsy moments. Then there’s Derwent who, supposedly, is Maeve’s boss but we all know better. He thinks of himself as a manly man but he really functions best as Maeve’s partner in detection. Derwent can be intensely irritating, especially to readers who are put off by a guy who seems to want to be in control but the relationship between these two is interesting as they head towards what could be a true friendship. (It’s also quite refreshing that, at least at this point in the series, there’s no romantic entanglement.) Meanwhile, Maeve has a stalker, Chris Swain, who is as menacing as such a person usually is.
I’m fond of police procedurals, particularly those set in the UK, and I have to say this could be one of my favorite series of that kind. I haven’t read any of the earlier Maeve Kerrigan books but After the Fire has really gotten my attention and I’m going to read the previous five novels as soon as I can. Ms. Casey is not only a fine writer but also truly good at creating a compelling crime story.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.