Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Review of "The Burning"[52]

The Burning by Jane Casey
Minotaur, ISBN 978-0312614171
336 pages, August 30, 2011

A serial killer is loose, terrorizing the women of London. There have been have been four victims so far, the women beat to death and then set on fire. The police have few clues, are being pressure to make an arrest by the public and the press.
And now there is a fifth victim!
Or is there?

On the surface, when the body of Rebecca Haworth, terribly burned. her scull crushed, is found, everyone assumes it is the work of the killer the papers have dubbed "The Burning Man". But DC Maeve Kerrigan is not totally convinced. There are a few inconsistencies from the other killings and she is afraid that they might have a copycat on their hands. A young woman in a mostly male police unit, her instincts are mostly dismissed by her colleagues, but her boss gives her the chance to investigate the fifth killing independently and see whether it is the work of their serial killer or not.
The story is told in alternating chapters told from the point of view of Maeve and Louise North, a barrister and Rebecca's best friend since college in Oxford. It is these two characters especially who are, to my mind the real strength of the story. 

Maeve is a great character and I can only hope that we will see more of her in the future. She is smart and funny, adept at handling the often sexist remarks of her fellow cops and used to being underestimate...well, until she solves the crime. This is very much a psychological mystery where the interest is learning about the characters and gradually learning their stories, including that of the victim Rebecca. On the surface, she seemed the perfect golden girl, successful, beautiful and popular, but let's say looks can be deceiving.And that deception may be the key to her death.

I had a small issue or two with the book. I like a mystery that plays fair, that is, gives you the information that would be required to figure it out and that was not totally true in this case. Some facts that the police had access to are not shared with us until near the last part of the book. Also, I think the story lagged a bit in the center, but a quite satisfying ending made me forget all about that.  This is the kind of book where you sort of miss the characters when the last page is turned, even one who turned out to have so many evil layers that you have no business feeling for them..but I did.
A good, solid, well written police procedural that I can certainly recommend

This book will be published August 30th.

My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers and the publisher for an Advanced Review Copy of this book.


  1. Serial murderers setting their victims on fire. As I read this I thought "Why do people write this stuff?" or better yet "Why do I read this stuff?". How demented are we? But we come back again and again. And yes, its no fun when they don't give you all the information to be able to figure it out!

  2. well, they were dead when set on fire. I think that is something..lol

  3. I like mysteries that play fair too - trying to guess is half the fun for me.

  4. I just finished this as well. I loved Maeve!

  5. I've never heard of this author but from your review, the book sounds like a good read despite the sagging middle. Off to check out the author.


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