Jane Casey

Cruel Acts

"Casey delivers a fast-moving plot told with page-turning intensity..."


Leo Stone is a killer who was convicted of the murder of two women. When the verdict is overturned on a technicality, the defence team, led by charismatic Seth Taylor, go all out to discredit the evidence the police have. The case against Stone is not as strong as it could be, and Maeve Kerrigan and senior officer Josh Derwent are charged with re-investigating the murders.

Before too long, they are at loggerheads. Maeve is convinced there is a third victim of the Leo Stone murders, Rachel Healy. She wasn't included in the original charges as her body was never found, and little if any evidence existed to link Stone to this killing.

Derwent rejects the idea of a link and thinks they will be wasting their time if they try to investigate it. Their boss, Una Burt, takes the opportunity to split up the Derwent/Kerrigan team and leaves Maeve to investigate the cold case of the missing Rachel Healy on her own. As Maeve does so, she begins to doubt the original case. Was Stone guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted? The family of one of his victims certainly believes he is innocent, and Stone's son, Kelly Lambert is campaigning hard to have his father released. Maeve finds herself drawn to Stone's solicitor, Seth Taylor, and also sympathetic towards Kelly, Stone's son. Could the police have got the original investigation so wrong, or are her personal sympathies getting in the way of her judgement? As more bodies turn up, the team realise they have stumbled onto something much bigger than they realised. Then another woman goes missing.

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Casey weaves together the strands of a complex plot along with the tropes readers have come to expect from the Maeve Kerrigan novels: the complex, ambiguous relationship between Maeve and Derwent; the hostility felt towards Kerrigan by her boss, Una Burt; the ambitious young DC on the team, Georgia Shaw who envies Kerrigan and will go a long way to do her a bad turn – and does; and Kerrigan's lost love, Rob, who cheated on her and left her. All of these form a background to a compelling mystery. Casey handles her complex narrative with real skill, building up tension, creating a cast of convincing characters and sometimes chilling settings – the lonely grassland of a nature reserve, a decaying house on an abandoned farm, a neglected back garden and the terrible secrets it hides are all presented with a visceral intensity. The plot itself is fast moving and gripping. Kerrigan is carrying out her investigation on the outside of the main team, but this leads her to find things that the previous investigation missed, and shows that what seemed to be simple, if brutal murders have become something far more complex and far darker. The plot builds up to a climax involving a race against time and a rooftop chase that is guaranteed to keep the reader on the edge of the seat. My only quibble with this book, is with the delicate balance of the Kerrigan-Derwent relationship. This, in previous books, has moved from intense dislike to an edgy but caring friendship and a mutual, if much denied, attraction. The relationship is in danger of treading water as Casey pulls away from the developing closeness between the two in a way that does not fully convince. It's a tricky business keeping two attractive characters apart while maintaining the frisson between them and it will be interesting to see how she continues to develop this relationship. The denouement is satisfactorily surprising and convincing, arising as it does from the trail that Casey has carefully laid. By the end of the book, Casey has all her ducks in an interesting formation for the next book in the series. It will be much anticipated. Casey delivers a fast-moving plot told with page-turning intensity, characters that come to life on the page, and in Maeve herself, a vivid central character who is a strong addition to the fictional female stars of the genre. 'Cruel Acts' is vintage Maeve Kerrigan, and those who are avidly following the series will not be disappointed.

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