Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on Let the Dead Speak.
Bleak and brutal, Casey’s latest tense police procedural featuring DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent is one of the most accomplished, twisted thrillers to come out of the UK in some time. Filled with gritty dialogue and strong, well-defined central characters, this book is everything it should be and more.
Central London’s rain-soaked atmosphere lends a tang of authenticity as Maeve and Josh search for the body of
a missing Putney woman, Kate Emery. While investigating the case, they also become caught up in the strange machinations of the Norris household, a tight-knit evangelical family who live in a large, rambling old house just a few doors down the street from Kate’s red-brick mansion.
On a Sunday afternoon, the murder squad--led by DI Una Burt--are called to 27 Valerian Road, where they discover
Kate Emery’s blood splattered everywhere. The house vibrates with violence; Maeve can feel the fear hanging in the air. Kate’s daughter, Chloe Emery,
hadsjust returned from visiting her father in Oxfordshire, but she can shed
little light on why anyone had reason to harm either her mother or her, apart
from telling Maeve that Kate sometimes had male visitors. With the girl in shock and unable to communicate, the decision is made for Chloe stay
at the Norrises' while the investigation unfolds. While Maeve aims to get Chloe comfortable enough to talk, Derwent turns to Oliver Norris, who reportedly gave Chloe a lift home the afternoon her mother disappeared.
Integral to the case is Oliver’s wife, Eleanor Norris, and their daughter, Bethany,
who is Chloe’s best friend. Derwent questions Eleanor about the last time she saw Kate, while Maeve attempts to question Chloe, who is reluctant to say what had driven her away from her father’s home--only that it was something she was ashamed of and wanted to keep secret. Oliver’s brother, Morgan, a lanky drifter, is currently living with his brother and sister-in-law. Morgan is also part of the Church of Modern Apostles, a local evangelical group who had wanted to wash away all of Kate’s sins.
The obvious suspect is William Turner, Kate’s immediate neighbor. With a rap sheet from four years ago as long as your arm, Turner denies any involvement in Kate’s murder
and admits that he’s in love with Bethany. In a last-ditch effort, Maeve and Derwent try to reenact the murder scene, recalibrating whatever forensic evidence they have to show that perhaps Kate is not dead after all. Meanwhile, Una Burt is close to panic that she’s presiding over a murder investigation with no body and no real solid suspects.
As the investigation hits a series of roadblocks, Maeve again clashes with Derwent’s brash manner and also with the Squad’s new
detective, the strikingly self-possessed Georgina Shaw, who has been a member of the team only for two weeks. Maeve already dislikes Shaw “even as she tries not to.” Young, pretty, articulate and confident, “but not that interested in hard work,” Georgina attracts the eye of handsome, aggressive Derwent. Because Georgina must fit seamlessly into the group, all of Maeve’s efforts in actually solving the case must be shared. As usual, Derwent gets a tongue-lashing from Una, who makes it plain that he needs to do more to help Georgina fit into the new dynamic of the team.
As in the other books in the series, Casey shapes her story around Josh and Maeve, an often-topsy-turvy relationship that skirts around the edges of sexual attraction. Maeve is a steady young career woman, still reeling at her boyfriend, Rob’s sudden abandonment; Josh, older and more impetuous,
is “an Alpha-male in his prime,” trying to become a settled family man. Admiring Maeve’s powers of persuasion, Josh travels with her to Oxfordshire to interview Chloe’s
father and her two creepy teenage stepbrothers, Nathan and Nolan, whose veneer of manners and respectability hide two self-centered personalities. From a series of unwanted sexual encounters, to complaints of rape, to Oliver and Morgan’s bags of misogynistic, dirty laundry, the assumption that someone could fake their own death becomes a real possibility.
Still, Maeve and Josh conclude that Kate is probably dead, her body in the river or dumped somewhere out of the way to rot.
In another great accent to her series, Casey doesn’t shy from exposing the hypocrisy of evangelism as well as the dark misogyny that surrounds men like the Morgan and Oliver Norris. Casey’s strengths are on full display. She possesses an uncanny knowledge of British police procedure and culture, something a less experienced writer would disdain for the sake of story. The essence of the modern police procedural is to blend crime with forensics, and cop culture
with the submerged fault lines, alliances, and flaws to which Maeve must always be so utterly attuned. Casey certainly has this formula down pat. I can’t wait for the next one in the series.