Casey, Jane - 'The Stranger You Know'
A short prologue describes a scene from several years ago, of a man looking at a body of a woman missing her eyes, gives the initial flavour to the story, which revolves around a serial killer, whose trademark is removing the eyes of his victims. Thrust forward into the present day and DS Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are investigating the murder of Princess Gordon, found battered and dead in the trunk of a Nissan micro by her sister Blessed. A short investigation that seems to quickly reveal that Princess' partner Adam is the culprit (he was having an affair with Blessed), serves to re-introduce us to the investigating team of Kerrigan and Derwent, in the fourth book featuring this pair of investigators. Derwent's caustic humour and the usual jibes against women that he seems to indulge in are two character traits that Kerrigan has come to both loathe and get used to. Reporting the investigation and its outcomes to Chief Inspector Godley, also helps to remind us that that Godley is leaking information to criminal gangs, a fact Kerrigan discovered in the last book, THE LAST GIRL, but is keeping quiet about.
At the subsequent briefing, Kerrigan's eye is caught by a newspaper story about a possible serial killer, targeting young single women. Two victims so far identified, strangled in their homes, their eyes removed. Then, the following day, a new body is found of a young woman called Anna, and Maeve is asked to join the task force investigating the murders. But instead of being teamed up with Derwent, she gets DI Una Burt, almost as scary as Derwent, but in a different way, as Una is 'blisteringly clever, mildly eccentric and absorbed in her work'. Kerrigan attends the scene of the third murder, and immediately starts to notice things that surely will become important in finding the killer. Derwent, feeling left out, constantly pesters Kerrigan to find out what's going on, but Kerrigan is told to ignore him.
Following up on the background to the victims, she uncovers some disturbing facts. A search of Anna's work computer, reveals that the victim had spent twelve minutes on part of the Metropolitan Police website three days before she died. An interview of friend of an earlier victim, Kirsty, reveals that she had had a planned meeting with an unknown man at her flat, just four days before she died. And it seemed she had mentioned security concerns to her landlord at about the same time. Was there someone both women were afraid of?
Finally, Godley tells Kerrigan why Derwent has been kept off the team. Kerrigan finds out that Josh's girlfriend was murdered when she was a teenager, that Josh had been the prime suspect, and that the MO was similar to the current cases. Is it possible that Derwent is the killer they are looking for now?
As usual, Kerrigan's abilities to look beyond the obvious and persistently dig deeper allow her to make gradual headway with the case. But this is mainly a story about loyalties. Even though Kerrigan dislikes Derwent's brazen non PC manner, his frequent jibes against women and string of put downs, she does feel a strange loyalty to him and she can't quite believe he is the perpetrator. Having been told to stay away from him (Derwent himself is forcibly put on leave), can she ignore him, or will she go to talk to him about the case, knowing he could be the killer? It's also about her conflicted loyalty to Godley, and her altered attitude to him since discovering his secret, and her new relationship with Una Burt, which has its own problems.
THE STRANGER YOU KNOW is a beautifully mature outing from Jane Casey, which builds nicely on the characters and relationships of the investigating team from earlier books, exploring their complexities, and introducing a few new ones. All this, on top of a well-plotted crime investigation makes for a highly absorbing read that I thoroughly recommend.
Michelle Peckham, England