Review: The Burning by Jane Casey


TheBurningThe Burning by Jane Casey (Minotaur, 2011)

Blurb: A serial killer who wants to watch you burn…

The media call him The Burning Man, a brutal murderer who has beaten four young women to death before setting their bodies ablaze in secluded areas of London’s parks. And now the fifth victim has been found…

Maeve Kerrigan is an ambitious detective constable, keen to make her mark on the murder task force. Her male colleagues believe Maeve’s empathy makes her weak, but the more she learns about the latest victim, Rebecca Haworth, from her grieving friends and family, the more determined Maeve becomes to bring her murderer to justice. But how do you catch a killer no one has seen? And when so much of the evidence they leave behind has gone up in smoke?


The blurb above is a bit misleading, as the investigation into the Burning Man murders is really more of a subplot rather than the main focus of The Burning. This isn’t a fast-paced, plot-driven book about capturing a serial killer, but rather a slow-to-develop, character-driven book about betrayal and punishment. That is not a criticism, just a statement of fact.

The real focus of the book is the investigation of the murder of Rebecca Haworth. Maeve Kerrigan is given the responsibility of learning about Rebecca, and she can’t shake the feeling that there’s something not quite right about linking this murder to the earlier Burning Man murders. The more she learns about Rebecca’s life—this golden girl, loved by all who knew her—the more she realizes how far the image is from the truth, and how many people might have had reason to kill her, opening up the possibility of a copycat killer.

The story is mostly told in first person POV by Maeve and Rebecca’s best friend Louise North. It was a bit jarring to have other characters jump in later in the book, in situations where neither Maeve nor Louise was in a position to report on the action, but that was a minor annoyance. More annoying is the way the solution to the mystery is revealed; I’d have preferred something a little more organic to the story.

As with many first books in new series, this one is full of characters who are introduced only briefly, and even the main characters are only developed to a limited extent. Maeve Kerrigan and her colleagues are an interesting bunch, with the usual politics and in-fighting that appear in most crime fiction series. I look forward to reading the next book in this series, as I’m told it continues to improve as it progresses.


My rating: 3 stars


One response »

  1. I’m glad you intend to stick with the series. As usual I came into it in the middle (book 2, if I remember correctly) and worked backwards. I agree with you that this one is somewhere between good and OK, but has faults. I enjoyed the second, but it was really the third when I felt she’d got into her stride and ironed out the structural problems of the first. Now she’s a ‘buy on publication day’ author for me. 🙂

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