I have a life, really I do. But from the minute I picked up Casey’s latest thriller, The Stranger You Know (Maeve Kerrigan Novels), I didn’t care about anything but finishing the novel. The interplay between characters, the taut plotting and eccentric murder scenes build a momentum that is all but impossible to resist.
Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan has grown used to Detective Inspector Josh Derwent’s acerbic remarks and quirky manner of relating to others, willing to learn from the seasoned investigator. But a series of bizarre strangling deaths, victims arranged in tableau that unquestionably link the killings, have created an awkward situation for Kerrigan. While she has been selected as one of the investigators in a very private aspect of the cases, Derwent has been frozen out. Maeve is warned not to share any of her information with him, a predicament certain to cause problems.
Working closely with Chief Superintendent Charles Godley, the handsome albeit possibly corrupt leader of the Murder Squad, and DCI Una Burt (who incidentally loathes Derwent), Kerrigan is cautioned to keep her part of the investigation to herself. The fact is that the press-christened “Gentleman Killer” may be obscurely linked to the current killings, Maeve charged with interviewing every person connected with an unsolved cold case. Meanwhile, the three most recent victims are arranged in similar fashion, but without any clue to their connection or opportunity to identify and save the next intended victim.
Maeve Kerrigan is in a quandary, on a career path that could be easily derailed by poor judgment but privately concerned with the unfairness to a justifiably outraged Josh Derwent. She is uncomfortably aware of DCI Burt’s antipathy for her colleague, knowing Josh to be an excellent detective aside from his difficult personality. Trusting her instincts in lieu of the orders from her boss, Kerrigan is caught in a serious conundrum when she and Derwent stumble over a crime-in-progress, neither able to avoid the flashing cameras of an avid press or Godley’s wrath. Despite her best intentions, Kerrigan has run afoul of the man who can put an end to her career aspirations.
Beyond the specific elements of the case—a fascinating mix of past and present crimes—Kerrigan struggles with chronic commitment issues and the ongoing specter of a stalker who may have found her most recent address. Casey balances irony and murder with impressive skill, creating flawed characters whose humanity renders them easily relatable, a sly villain who lurks behind the façade of normalcy, and the structure of an investigation mindful of the need to build a solid court case. The action, when it comes, resonates with menace both immediate and impending. While the Murder Squad is frantic to stop a killer who may have begun his spree years ago, Kerrigan finds herself once again face to face with a bold killer, perched on a tightrope between a possible arrest and her own death. No newcomer to the genre, Jane Casey has perfected her craft, The Stranger You Know one of the few thrillers that has literally stopped me in my tracks. Worth every minute of guilt.