Written by Jane Casey — It’s the time of year when parties abound, but there’s nothing worse than getting there after everyone else has had a few drinks and is infused with festive jollity, is there? I mention it because it’s a feeling I know intimately after reading this book. The Kill is the fifth in a series featuring Anglo-Irish Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan and sadly, it shows, which is something of a handicap to a newcomer like me.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a wealth of back story – trouble is that every one of the recurring characters is haunted by past deeds and misdeeds and it is a mammoth task to set them aside and focus on the tale at hand. Bringing a newbie up to date is a job that needs careful handling but here it is laid on too thickly.
The book opens as a police officer has been found dead in his car in a deserted part of Richmond Park. It seems he was clinically gunned down in his vehicle on the way home from work. But what was Sergeant Terence Hammond doing, parked up at such a remote spot? He was up to no good apparently, and early signs are that this family man was not alone. As Maeve, her DI Josh Derwent and the rest of the murder investigation team begin to dig into his background, they begin to piece together a disturbing picture.
Then a van full of Territorial Support Group officers is targeted as they patrol a notorious local housing estate and several of them are killed. It appears there is a skilled murderer on the loose with police officers in his sights – but why? And who will be next? This is an investigation that will lead the team off in many directions, not all of them viable, but the focus is on Maeve, Derwent and their boss, Superintendent Charles Godley – a man about whom Maeve knows too much which provides a prime example of the overwhelming back story presented in The Kill. Sadly, I found them all pretty unlovable, with misogynistic bully Derwent at the top of the list.
This is a police procedural which follows little in the way of procedure. There are at least two occasions where Maeve takes herself off – alone – and ends up in danger because of it. Derwent seems to have an ambivalence about the law and working within it, while the troubled Godley spends much of the book in his office, head in hands. How this team ever solves anything is a miracle really. There are a few supporting characters given a touch of humanity, such as Maeve’s boyfriend Rob and Godley’s second in command Una Burt, but the remaining are lightly sketched and two-dimensional and add little to the plot development.
I kept persevering, expecting things to fall into place and fully engage me, but instead found myself getting more and more mired in the detail of what had gone before. I wonder whether fans of the series really need such crushing reminders of books one to four? I’m all for bringing people up to speed, but in The Kill I felt like I was being driven over speed bumps at 50 miles an hour – not a pleasant experience.
CFL Rating: 2 Stars