Maeve Kerrigan is a very ambitious detective constable who is determined to do all she can to find a murderer the media have named 'The Burning Man' and bring him to justice. As part of a murder task force, Maeve strives to be rise above her male colleagues and not show any signs of weakness, whilst the hunt is on for the brutal murderer who has beaten four young women to death, before setting their bodies ablaze in secluded areas inside the parks of London.
When the fifth victim, a young woman named Rebecca Haworth, is found, Maeve finds that the more she learns about the latest victim from her grieving family and friends, the more determined she is to find the murderer. But how do you catch a killer no one has seen and when so much of the evidence left behind has gone up in smoke?
Catching the Burning Man before he can strike again is proving to be no easy task and then when delving into the latest victims life throws up some puzzling information, Maeve wonders if there is a lot more to the case than meets the eye.
'The Burning' is the second novel by Jane Casey and is one which I was keen to read having enjoyed her debut novel 'The Missing' around a year ago.
The book starts well, with a young girl enjoying a night out with friends, who later believes she has had a lucky escape from certain death after encountering whom she believes to be the 'The Burning Man'.
The story then switches to Maeve, as we are introduced to the life of the ambitious detective constable at half-three in the morning as she receives a phone call from a colleague and heads off to work.
The first thoughts I had about Maeve were not very favourable. Her character seemed to be the typical female detective striving to compete and be better than her male colleagues, that we have all read about before in many other crime novels.
Maeve lives with her boyfriend Ian in his flat, however, she seems to have little time for him and doesn't seem to care too much about his feelings and it would seem she would rather be at work 24/7 than anywhere else. Even when she isn't at work and could be enjoying some social time, Maeve finds an excuse to be at work instead of going out to dinner or to the cinema with her boyfriend and their friends. She belittles her boyfriend's friends jobs and appears quite condescending towards them and I found it hard to find anything to like about her character initially.
Because of this, I found it difficult to get into the book as I found Maeve so irritating and also felt maybe too long was given to her character in the first part of the book. There wasn't any great suspense to keep me turning the pages at first either and so I found it easy to put the book down and not rush to pick it up again.
Indeed if it wasn't for the fact I had enjoyed Casey's previous novel 'The Missing' so much, I may have even ditched this book.
As it turned out, I am pleased I didn't give up on this book, because a third of the way in I found it did become more interesting as the actual plot began to unfold and we were introduced to other characters who make up the story, such as Rebecca Haworth's best friend, Louise or her ex-boyfriend Gil, both of which appear to have one or two secrets themselves that they are trying to keep hidden.
The suspense began to build and I found I was beginning to enjoy reading the book, as the plot cleverly raised questions about the characters and Rebecca's life prior to her death and Maeve comes to realise there is a lot more to the case of 'The Burning Man' than she bargained for.
What I thought was going to be a straightforward murder hunt, developed into something more complex with a few subtle twists and turns along the way. Things happened which I had not expected as the story took on a more menacing tone and I then found it harder to put down. I actually read the final third of the book in one sitting, which was a complete contrast to the number of times I picked the book up and put it down during the first third.
I started to guess how the book may end about half-way through and although I wasn't far off the mark with a couple of things, I was not able to guess the ending correctly, which pleased me. I personally love to be kept guessing until the end when reading a thriller and this book ticked all the boxes in that respect.
Casey keeps the reader intrigued with her style of writing and suspense-building plots which thicken considerably before a conclusion is reached and once again she has delivered a good psychological thriller here. The story is told through the character's individual voices rather than as a third party narrative and in this case it made the story a more interesting read I felt. My only niggle being the beginning of the book, which I thought was a little slow and not as interesting as it maybe could have been to draw the reader in.
I actually began to like Maeve a little more as the book went on, however, even though she is the main character, it was the other characters and the actual plot with a few twists which made reading this book enjoyable. Overall, Maeve was too 'predictable' for me and I felt I had met her character many times before in other books, however, the strength of the plot and the development of the other characters more than made up for this.
I would recommend this book if you enjoy psychological thrillers and even though I struggled a little with the opening chapters and didn't care too much for the main character, it was still an enjoyable read overall.