Written by Stav Sherez — We first met Jack Carrigan and Geneva Miller last year, in Stav Sherez’s critically acclaimed and hugely successful A Dark Redemption. That book was set against a backdrop of Ugandan political unrest, while focusing on a grisly death on the mean streets of London – a heady mix which made for great reading. It was LoiteringWithIntent‘s number one book of 2012 as well.
Now Carrigan and Miller are back and this time, they are not even sure that murder has been committed. Or should that be ‘murders’? Because when Carrigan receives an urgent call on his day off, he is surprised to learn that he is being summoned to a blaze at a small convent in an upmarket residential street in West London. It is unclear whether the fire was arson or a mere accident, until 10 bodies are found behind a locked door, with an 11th discovered inside a confession box in the convent’s chapel. And there are only supposed to be 10 nuns in residence… so what’s that all about?
Thus begins a complex investigation which sends the pair off on different tangents. Carrigan thinks the deaths are connected to a particularly nasty gang of Albanian mobsters who combine drug dealing with sex trafficking, while Miller is convinced the answer lies in Peru, where several of the dead nuns worked during the 1970s, where another of their number mysteriously disappeared recently. Whatever the reason, it appears the local Catholic diocese is determined to block the pair’s every move. And with a pair of dark-suited heavies also intent on doing them harm, Jack and Geneva have plenty on their plate as the powers-that-be press for a quick resolution in the run-up to Christmas – which is just 11 days away.
As if dealing with a difficult case is not enough, both Carrigan and Miller are wrestling with personal problems, and neither seems too keen to share. Christmas is a particularly difficult time for Jack, who is still grieving the death of his wife, while Geneva is being bombarded with thinly-disguised threats from her ex-husband. Setting their personal lives aside, they are always there for each other and make a great team as the plot swirls and eddies around them.
And what a plot! I can’t begin to imagine how much research went into this book – from modern-day drug cartels to the upsurge of radical Liberation Theology in South America in the 1970s. The hard work has certainly paid off, because I was engrossed throughout. If there’s a flaw with Eleven Days at all, it might be that you’ll be able to work it out well before the ending like I did, though I’m certain the finale will shock and surprise many readers.
Eleven Days is a dark and complicated tale, offset by Sherez’s gift for lyrical prose and the clever way he weaves teasing snippets of clarity that hit you like sunshine through the clouds. Be warned, though, you’ll be led down many a garden path before you reach that final page!
Faber and Faber
CFL Rating: 4 Stars