A few months back I read some wonderful reviews about the Maeve Kerrigan series in some of your blogs. Later on, I came across Jane Casey over Twitter, and after much talking about our common interests, which include Ireland, London and crime fiction, she kindly offered to send me a couple of her books featuring London-based, Irish DC Maeve Kerrigan, for which I will be forever grateful. Last August, The Stranger You Know (Maeve Kerrigan #4) made it to the top of my TBR pile while searching for a good police procedural to take away with me to my holidays. Spoiler alert: I could not have chosen a better book!
The Stranger You Know is the forth in the Maeve Kerrigan series, and although I usually read procedural series in order, I was so glad Casey had sent me this novel personally, that I forgot about the previous installments in the series. I have to admit I am very happy that I did this. The Stranger You Know can be perfectly read as a stand-alone, because the author makes a huge effort to situate the reader, and there is no trouble at all deducing the personal relationships between the main characters. Also, now that I know how much I love DC Kerrigan, I know I still have three other books to get to know her past, and how she came to be one of my favourite fictional detectives.
If there is something remarkable in The Stranger You Know, it is the crime in itself, something that had not happened to me for a few reads now. It seems that recently, crime fiction has been more of a character study than a good, thrilling case, but this novel changed it. As a huge fan of the TV show The Fall, I could not but see the resemblances to the also Irish production, while noting that Casey’s story has nothing to envy to the silver screen. The inclusion of a cold case gives the narration more depth, and allows the author to prove her skills at portraying teenager social relationships mixed with social expectations, and that first love that makes your head spin round. Kerrigan is brought to the team investigating the murder and postmortem amputation of three young, hard-working, upper-middle class women in their London houses when the second victim of the so-called ‘Gentleman Killer’ turns up. There are no apparent similarities between the victims except for the modus operandi, and Maeve’s true calling to the investigation by her boss, Godley, comes from a darker place than she expected:
‘Charlie wanted you to be involved because you have more in common with the victims than the rest of us do’.
From that moment on, Kerrigan devotes all her efforts – in the typical and ever inspiring crime fiction way in which no one sleeps and eating is overrated and usually forgotten – to capture the killer that is threatening London’s young women. In the process, she even feels identified with the killer, in the sense that they are both getting sleepless nights, and adrenaline rushes from the women: him from the killing, her from the detecting process. Even though this is typical device, I will never get tired of the moral and emotional process that ties the detective with the killer, and Casey nailed it by making Kerrigan subvert what everyone thought she had to do – identify with the victims – to what she finally did: identifying with the killer.
The fact that the series main character is a woman does not always mean that there is anything remarkable about women’s representation. But, add the crimes, a pregnant forensic doctor, an Irish mother, a Lesbian co-worker and her partner, and London’s young, professional women that include two migrants, and the scope of female characters you get is wide and diverse. I was very pleased to read things such as ‘everyone has an accent’ as a reclaiming of the many englishes – no capital C needed, for there is not such hierarchy – versus the supposed London English, which I dare say may come from Casey’s own experience in London as an Irish migrant. Finally, I was particularly diverted by DI Josh Derwant’s irreverent tone, which usually stood for the Patriarchal discourse, and Kerrigan’s impossibility to shout up or stop herself from proving him wrong, and letting him know so.
What can I say? The Stranger You Know has made me fall in love with DC Maeve Kerrigan and her spotless, always on-point detective work. I will be reading more of her, and possibly of Casey. Stay tuned for a review of the next book in the series, The Kill.