Procedural Mystery with Promise: “The Burning”

10769683The Burning by Jane Casey
Minotaur Books: September 2011 (Mystery)

Beach Vacation

Picking up The Burning is the continuation with my latest obsession with the mystery genre. I don’t recall what put this one on my radar, but as far as British crime goes, this first novel in the Maeve Kerrigan series was a solid read, although I found it darker and less character focused than I expected.

Maeve is a twenty-eight year old detective constable who is dedicated to her job, where she is a member of an elite team within the police. The Burning throws readers right into the middle of an investigation. A serial killer is plaguing London; young woman are being killed and their bodies burned. When a new body appears, Maeve is convinced that the woman, Rebecca, does not fit the profile. Have the police got a copy cat on their hands? Maeve thinks this is the case and is given leeway by her boss to treat Rebecca’s murder as a separate investigation. The more Maeve delves into the life and death of Rebecca the higher the suspect list grows. Rebecca was not the poised and perfect young woman that she appeared and Maeve is determined to find out what really happened to her.

For the most part, The Burning was an intelligent and realistic crime story. The content was grim but never ventured into a Criminal Minds territory of depravity, which is not really my thing. The murder was presented to readers, but it was not related in an overly graphic manner. What I did find interesting was the author’s decision to include a suspect’s perspective in the narrative. For the most part, The Burning flips back and forth between Maeve and Louise (the suspect). I think that some readers will be put off by this change in perspective, but I found that it kept me guessing about the purpose of this narrative, which by the end, is revealed.

What I was disappointed in was the fact that I didn’t find The Burning to be a book rich in character development. While readers certainly learn things about Maeve outside her police work, the focus was centrally on the investigation. I will admit that this makes sense considering the severity of the crime, but I was hoping for more. But whose to say that this will not develop over several books in the series.

The Burning is a solid crime story, perfect for fans of U.K. mysteries. The level of detail in the crime procedure will certainly appeal to some and the character of Maeve will appeal to those that like a character focus in their mysteries. I’ll be cautiously following up with the second book in the series, The Reckoning.

Similar Reads

While I have not read anything by S.J. Bolton, her Lacey Flint series is on my list, which the first book being Now You See Me. The fact that it features another ambitious young policewoman is what brings it to mind as a good follow up to The Burning. However, I have heard that Bolton’s series is more graphic and darker, so that may deter some readers.

Now You See Me (Lacey Flint, #1)

For fans of British crime, I recommend Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series. While I had mixed feelings about the first book, it is a series that gets better with each book and I love the fact that readers are brought into both investigators home life. The character development is slow moving over the course of the series, but I think it’s worth the time investment (there’s 16 books to date!). Start with book one, A Share in Death.

A Share in Death (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #1)



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