The Burning by Jane Casey

The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan, #1)The Burning by Jane Casey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve seen The Burning by Jane Casey popping up on my Goodreads book recommendations for some time, so when I got a chance to read it on NetGalley, I gave it a go.
From the description of the mystery, I had expected a rather forgettable, formulaic, police procedural. What I got instead was likeable characters, an intriguing plot, a beautiful setting, and themes of obsession and friendship, which are always creepily compelling.
I immediately warmed to the main character of Maeve Kerrigan, a young DC in London with a heart of gold. Her partner is the witty and loyal Rob Langton. As the story begins, the two are investigating a series of murders in London, in which young women are killed and then burned.
Part of the reason I was reluctant to read The Burning in the past was that I didn’t look forward to reading the details of people being burned to death, so I was relieved to find that the gore factor in The Burning was not too disturbing. I think part of this was because Maeve herself reacted strongly to the violence, and also because victims were described in medical terms, rather than in a purely sensationalist manner. So happily, this book was less upsetting than I had feared, while still managing to create a sense that a very horrible psychopath was on the loose.
As mentioned above, another good thing about the novel was the human relationships between the characters. Maeve and Rob are both innately decent people, as is Godfrey, their boss. This lends a sense of hope and safety to the dangerous world that they navigate. Also, the author portrays abusive, obsessive relationships between some of the other characters in a psychologically astute manner.
A third thing I really enjoyed about The Burning was the setting, which mainly took place around London and in the beautiful town of Oxford. I am pretty much guaranteed to enjoy any book that has a setting in a gorgeous old university town, with the requisite stone arches, arcane traditions, and storied past.
I was impressed with the depth that Jane Casey brought to The Burning. While it was clearly a twisty, action-packed mystery, it had a plot that really interested me. I also feel like Casey touched on some deeper themes, such as how difficult it is to change one’s true identity. I thought the fact that she used the disfiguration of burning as the crime related nicely to the way some of the characters were trying to change their outward appearances, but were unable to escape their basic natures.
The two quibbles I have with The Burning are minor. First, at 368 pages, it is a long novel. Secondly, I felt that at times, the repartee between Maeve and Rob seemed juvenile, rather than funny and flirty. Regardless, I really liked Maeve and Rob, and am glad that I took a chance and read The Burning. Luckily, it is the first in a series, and I will definitely be reading more novels by Jane Casey. If you read and enjoy The Truth Will Out by Jane Isaac, I would recommend that you read The Burning, by Jane Casey.

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