DC Maeve Kerrigan is part of the task force tracking down a serial killer dubbed "The Burning Man", who likes to viciously beat his victims before setting them on fire. The fifth victim is Rebecca Howarth - or is she? There's enough difference between the manner of Rebecca's death and those of the other victims that Maeve is allowed to dig into Rebecca's life to find out who may have wanted her dead, and tried to make it look like The Burning Man did it.
Intercut with Maeve's investigation is the viewpoint of Louise North, Rebecca's best friend, who is always on hand to provide clues and steer the direction of the murder enquiry, but who seems to have a lot to hide herself.
It's hard to discount "The Burning" if only because it is very well-written and the character development is sharp and believable. The characters and their relationships are well-defined and draw you into the story. Which is a good thing considering this is otherwise an overlong and very feeble mystery. Sorry, but it was entirely obvious from the get-go who killed Rebecca. You have to wade through quite a lot just to find out "how" and "why". Since it is made rather clear that The Burning Man didn't kill Rebecca, it renders that part of the narrative obsolete, yet Casey still continues to devote a fair bit of time to it. Why am I supposed to be invested in a plotline that will have no impact on who killed Rebecca or why they did it? Casey should have minimised the presence of The Burning Man investigation and focused primarily on making it a bit harder to figure out who killed Rebecca. Then again - was it supposed to be a mystery? Was I simply supposed to enjoy the rich prose and the psychological probing of a damaged mind?
Nope, that doesn't cut it with me. While I wouldn't call the book "predictable" there certainly weren't any surprises. I need a little more than good writing and character development to justify a book that clocks in at nearly 500 pages. Plot twists. Suspense. That would be a good place to start. Nevertheless, Maeve Kerrigan is a surprisingly appealing heroine, coming off strong and not too stupid. She pops up again in Jane Casey's next novel "The Reckoning" apparently, and Casey has enough talent for me to hope that she might put out something really special.