Jane Casey’s DS Maeve Kerrigan series hits double figures with The Close. The London copper first has to deal with the murder of a doctor, Hassan Dawoud, found dead in his car in the hospital car park. His husband Cameron is a likely suspect, as the pair often fought, but he has an unshakable alibi. Then she is seriously sidetracked. The death of a vulnerable man called Davy Bidwell, found virtually mummified in a derelict house, has raised serious questions. Why was his broken body covered in all kinds of wounds, and what became of him after he left his last known address – in Jellicoe Close, an apparently safe middle-class suburban street?
One – or perhaps several – of the long term residents of Jellicoe Close must know what happened to Davy Bidwell. The death has left the Met with egg all over its gold braid ceremonial uniform, and in order to make up for earlier failings, the top brass decide to plant two officers – disguised as civilians – into the community in an attempt to discover what happened.The two chosen for this surveillance are Kerrigan – and DI Josh Derwent, They are ‘of an age’ to be a plausible couple, and are smart enough to pull off the deception that they are house-sitting for a genuine resident.
Meanwhile, Kerrigan has to try to keep tabs on the Hassan Dawoud investigation on the phone to her colleague DC Georgia Shaw, who comes over as attractive and talkative, but perhaps not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Jane Casey uses a sizeable chunk of the middle part of the book to dwell on the “will-they-won’t-they” aspect of Kerrigan’s relationship with Derwent. As they they insert themselves into the social dynamic of Jellicoe Close, a certain amount of public affection is necessary to keep up the charade, but what happens when the pair are out of the public gaze? Jane Casey (left) lets us know that the killer is watching and observing the newcomers as they blend into the suburban lifestyle of over-the-fence gossip, barbecues, football matches and drinks parties.
Although the residents of Jellicoe Close are not on an island, Jane Casey recreates a similar sense of claustrophobia and mistrust pioneered all those years ago by Agatha Christie in And Then There Were None. The parallel, I suppose, is that what traps the people in Jellicoe Close is not the sea, but a combination of their own suspicions, misplaced loyalties and prejudices. After several false turns – and another death – the two detectives find a way through the maze of apparently conflicting accounts of the events which led up to the death of Davy Bidwell.
Meanwhile, the not-as-dim-as-we-thought Georgia Shaw has cracked the case of the killing of Hassan Dawoud, which only leaves Kerrigan and Derwent to mull over the effects of their pretence as lovers. The romantic relationship between Kerrigan and Derwent became a bit too breathless for me, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of a cracking police procedural where the main characters are skillfully drawn on a carefully observed backdrop of suburban life and – more importantly – the reality behind the charade that “perfect” families sometimes present to the public gaze is exposed as a charade. The Close is published by Harper Collins and is available now.