With Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.
Let the Dead Speak is Jane Casey’s seventh detective novel featuring London detective Maeve Kerrigan and her co-workers. If the task of detectives is to uncover the perpetrators of a crime—and bring them to justice—it is a reader’s job to piece together the characters that inhabit the author’s world. How have their roles evolved over time? How do their interpersonal relationships impact the solving of the crime at hand? This is particularly interesting when a detective is promoted, as is the case with Maeve Kerrigan. Career changes inevitably cause the modus operandi to shift. When the kaleidoscope is shaken, new patterns of investigation emerge.
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns home abruptly, fleeing an uncomfortable weekend at her father’s house. As she plods through the rain, she broods over how mean her stepmother, Belinda, is to her.
She still didn’t know why Belinda was angry with her about her body, or people looking at her. A wave of unease passed over Chloe, remembering—the familiar nausea of not knowing things that other people took for granted. It wasn’t her fault; she did try.
Chloe’s neighbor Mr. Norris gives her a lift. Chloe lets herself into her house and is confronted with a horrifying scene. There is blood everywhere, her cat Misty is howling, and the stench is unbearable. The doorbell rings again and again—it’s Mr. Norris with Chloe’s bag in his hand, the bag she left in his car.
He held the bag out to her but she didn’t take it. She didn’t have time before his eyes tracked over her shoulder and took in the scene behind her and the genial smile faded. “Jesus. Jesus Christ. Christ almighty. What the—”
Chloe turned to see what he was looking at, and she could see a lot more when the door was open. A lot more. At the top of the stairs, Misty was still squatting, her eyes glazed and wild, her mouth open. Even as Chloe watched, she bent her head and gently, tentatively, began to lick the floor.
Behind Chloe, Mr. Norris retched.
Somehow Chloe is able to calmly ask Mr. Norris where her mother is. That’s a question that the police want to know too. The murder investigation team arrives “two and a half hours since the 999 call had brought response officers to the address.” Detective Sergeant Maeve Kerrigan and her detective constable sit across the street from the crime scene.
Beside me, Georgia Shaw shifted in her seat. “What are we waiting for?”
“So let’s get going.” She had her hand on the door handle already.
“We are murder detectives. By the time we turn up at a crime scene, by definition, nothing can be done to save anyone. So what’s the rush?”
She cleared her throat, because when you’re a detective constable, you don’t say bullshit to a detective sergeant. Not unless you know them very well indeed. Even if the detective sergeant is so newly promoted she keeps forgetting about it herself.
But the colleagues can’t put off entering the “classic Victorian terraced house” indefinitely. Una Burt, Maeve’s “guy,” tells her they “need to preserve every inch of the forensics.”
As opposed to obliterating the evidence as I usually do.
“Of course,” I said politely.
“This is a strange one. Come on.” She led the way into the tiny tent where there were folded paper suits like the one she wore.
A crime scene without a body. Competing investigators dividing up the myriad tasks needed to solve the mystery of the whereabouts of Chloe’s mother, Kate Emery. Maeve’s colleague, Kev Derwent arrives on the scene and joins the spiraling conversation between Una and the other investigators.
“The girl was away from Wednesday,” Derwent said. “Did anyone know she was coming back today?”
“I don’t know. Maeve, you can ask her about that. I want you to interview her.”
I nodded as Derwent flashed me a look that said Don’t think I won’t try to come along just because you’re a detective sergeant now. I ignored him. He was still getting used to the idea of me being a little more senior, with more responsibilities and, crucially, more independence from him.
To be honest, so was I.
Interviews with neighbors, painstaking forensic analysis, fingerprints and detailing of the crime scene: these are the building blocks that Maeve Kerrigan and her fellow detectives rely on to solve crimes. Without revealing any secrets, Let the Dead Speak is a particularly apt title. Maeve’s role is to work her way through obfuscation and cover-ups to allow the dead to speak for themselves. This is an admirable addition to the Maeve Kerrigan series.
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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.
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