"Maeve Kerrigan [is] a fascinating and plausible character…What she has is persistence, integrity and emotional intelligence, and a very deft way of insinuating herself into a reader's affections."The Irish Independent (UK)
Vast wealth offers London defense attorney Philip Kennford a lot of things: a gorgeous house with a pool in the backyard, connections in the top echelons of society, a wardrobe worthy of Milan runways. But his money doesn't provide a happy marriage, or good relationships with his twin daughters…and it does nothing to protect his family when someone brutally murders his wife and daughter in their own home.
When Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan arrives at the scene, the two survivorsPhilip and his second favorite daughter, Lydiaboth claim to have seen nothing, but it's clear right away that this is an unhappy family accustomed to keeping secrets. Maeve soon finds herself entangled in a case with a thousand leads that all seem to point nowhere, and it doesn't help that her boss, whom she trusts more than almost anyone, is starting to make decisions that Maeve finds questionable at best.
In The Last Girl, Jane Casey once again demonstrates her ability to write vivid, three-dimensional characters and spin a gripping, unpredictable mystery.
About the Author
JANE CASEY was born and raised in Dublin. A graduate of Oxford with a master's of philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin, she lives in London, where she works as an editor. The Last Girl is her fourth novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Last Girl
By Jane Casey
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Jane Casey
All rights reserved.
"The only thing I know about Wimbledon is the tennis." Derwent drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
I stared at the map. "What do you need to know? It's an expensive place to live. Smart. Out of your price range. Not the sort of place we usually fetch up. Still two miles away at a rough estimate, and God knows how long that's going to take."
"Lights are changing, Kerrigan. I'm going to go on straight."
"No, don't do that." Straight ahead of us was a queue of cars that stretched to infinity, or at least the A3. I turned the map around, desperately searching for the right road. "Left. Turn left."
"I'm in the wrong lane." The car surged forward, going straight into the one-way system from hell. "Should have decided sooner."
"I don't know why you sound so smug. We're both going to be stuck in the same traffic."
"Yeah, but it's your fault. So I can enjoy myself by blaming you."
"It's not my fault that you broke your satnav." The ice in my voice did nothing to cool the temperature in the car; I could feel sweat trickling down my back and shifted in my seat. The windows were down but the air was stagnant, hot even though the sun had set hours earlier. August in London, and the weather was at its worst. "Since we're stationary, do you mind putting the air conditioning on?"
"Waste of petrol. Someone's got to think of the environment." He stuck his head out of his window and sniffed enthusiastically. "Fresh air is better for you."
A hundred exhausts belched fumes in front of us. "This air is not fresh."
"Nor are my socks," Derwent admitted, sticking a finger down the side of his shoe and proving his point with a waft of sweaty-foot smell. My nose wrinkled and I turned my face away, not caring that he found it funny.
"Why is there so much traffic at this time of night anyway?"
"Need you ask? Roadworks. It goes down to one lane from three. We should never have come this way." Derwent inched forward although the car in front hadn't moved. "Almost midnight. What were you planning to do this evening?"
I had hoped for an early night, but I knew better than to say anything that hinted at bed. The DI was as quick to go after innuendo as a terrier barreling down a rat hole. "Nothing much. You?"
"Nothing you want to hear about, I imagine." A sidelong glance. "Your loss."
"I doubt that." I knew very little of his private life, but that was precisely as much as I wanted to know about it. I just wished he felt the same way about me.
"What about your boyfriend?"
"What about him?"
"Is he at home?"
"He's working." And that's all I'm saying, so move on.
"You're probably pleased to have something to do. Gets you out of the house, doesn't it?"
Thank God. Work talk. "It sounds like an interesting case."
"It sounds like a domestic." Derwent rubbed a hand over the back of his neck and looked at it, then wiped it down his trouser leg. "I'm sweating like a pedo in a playground."
He was reliably, casually offensive, but every now and then he still managed to shock me. I had decided that he was an acquired taste, and that I could get to like him some day. Today was not that day.
"Look, if you don't take the next left we're going to be here until midnight."
"It's one-way." He was leaning forward to see, hugging the steering wheel. I peered in the same direction, seeing the no-entry signs.
"I could blue light it."
"Not a good idea," I said automatically. There were strict rules governing when we could travel on blues and twos. Getting to work was not an emergency.
Derwent looked at me sideways. His hair was ruffled and he'd caught the sun across the bridge of his nose. He looked all of eight years old. "Please?"
"Why are you asking me? You're the senior officer."
"That's right. I am." He sounded pleased at the reminder. "Well, off we go. Hit it, Kerrigan."
The siren hadn't finished its first whoop before Derwent had pulled out of our line of traffic, making for our illegal turn. We had two wheels on the pavement most of the way. I closed my eyes and muttered, more or less involuntarily, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."
"Talk holy to me, Kerrigan. You know I love it when you pray."
"Just concentrate on what you're doing, okay?" The streets weren't empty enough for rally driving. Because of the weather, people were still out walking their dogs or jogging, in spite of how late it was. They really weren't expecting to be confronted with an unmarked car bearing down on them from the wrong direction, even if we did have our blue lights flashing.
We were, however, making progress, and as Derwent pulled out onto the main road — causing a bus to slam on its brakes — he gave me a wide grin. "That's better, isn't it?"
"Better than sitting in a traffic jam," I allowed.
He shook his head. "You just can't say it, can you? 'I was wrong. You were right, Josh. I should always listen to you.'"
"You're right. I can't say that. Turn right after these traffic lights."
"Up the hill," Derwent checked.
"That's where we're going."
Up the hill. Up into the rarefied air of Wimbledon Village, the pretty, exclusive little enclave where expensive boutiques, delis, galleries and cafés catered to the tastes of the locals and their apparent desire to spend my annual salary on fripperies and cappuccinos. Up to where the houses were detached, set back from the road, and priced in multiple millions. It was leafy and lavish and a different world from where I lived, even though that was only a few miles away as the crow flew.
Derwent was paying scant attention to the road, leaning into my personal space. He whistled. "Look at that one."
"The house?" It was a white-painted mansion with yew lollipops on either side of the front door.
"The Aston Martin, Kerrigan. I couldn't give a fuck about the house."
"Think that's a footballer's gaff?"
"Could be. Someone with a few hundred grand to spend on one of their cars. I saw it on Top Gear. Beautiful, isn't it?" He had slowed to a crawl and was creeping along, hugging the curb as he stared at the car. A BMW overtook us with a blast from its horn and Derwent raised a hand to acknowledge it, hopelessly distracted.
"They'll call the police if you're not careful. Stop drooling."
"That car or a night with Angelina Jolie. I'm not even joking, I wouldn't stop to think about it."
"I wouldn't worry. You're not likely to have to choose any time soon."
"Angelina would understand," he said with conviction. "She'd appreciate it. She'd feel the same way." He flicked a look at me. "You don't get it, do you? It's just a car to you."
"It's a means of getting from A to B. It may not be quite as beautiful, but so is the one that we're sitting in currently. And I would like to get to B before the SOCOs and the boss have packed up and headed home."
"Ooh, the boss. Why didn't you say? We'd better hurry." Derwent took off with a wheel spin that left six feet of rubber on the road.
I ignored the sarcasm and the stunt driving and said nothing else except to direct him through the narrow tree-lined roads until we reached the white wooden barrier that cut off Endsleigh Drive from its neighbors.
"Cul-de-sac with no vehicular access except for residents. So whoever did it had to walk there."
"Unless it was one of the residents."
Derwent frowned. "Bit extreme for a neighborly dispute." He held his ID out of the window so the policeman guarding the barrier could see who we were.
"Six houses, all with gates. High hedges." I could only see the roofs of most of the houses. "No one will have seen anything. But they might have heard something. This place must be quiet usually."
"Nope." We drove through the barrier, past the group of spectators hanging around in shorts and T-shirts with the familiar mixture of shock and excitement on their faces. They stared into the car curiously and I stared back, making eye contact with a middle-aged man wearing an expensive watch and a dingy polo shirt, and a younger one whose face was half-hidden by a baseball cap. A couple of seconds and we had gone past them, and the patrol cars with their lights whirling, and the vans for the SOCOs' equipment, and the first outriders of the media pack. I'd have been shocked if they hadn't been there — they made it to most crime scenes long before I did, no matter how quickly I responded, and this was the sort of case that would appeal to them. The very minor thrill of appearing on the television news had long since worn off for me, although it was the one thing that consoled my mother about my career choice. I ran a hand through my hair, despising myself for preening but aware that the heat and humidity had made the usual bad situation worse. I could just hear the message Mum would leave. Did you ever think of brushing your hair before you left the house, Maeve? Surely you'd have had time to run a comb through it ...
Both sides of the road were fully parked up but Derwent refused to drive out again.
"It's not far. And you run marathons, so you can't be that lazy."
"I don't mind the walk. I mind people not knowing I'm a big-shot police inspector." He settled for blocking in a car that I recognized as belonging to the pathologist, Dr. Hanshaw.
"Glen's not going to be pleased."
"Glen is going to be here for a while. And I'm not exactly scared of him anyway." Derwent got out and stretched, revealing a damp patch that took up most of the back of his shirt so the material clung to his really quite impressive muscles. I plucked my top away from my skin, knowing that it would be translucent where it had been pressed against me. The heat was like a coat wrapped around me. I pulled a face, then bent down to look for the water bottle I'd stashed at my feet. It was too light when I picked it up. Empty, but for a few drops at the bottom.
I was still looking at it when Derwent leaned down. "Are you getting out or what?"
"Did you drink my water?"
"I had half a bottle of water here. Did you drink it?"
"You must be hallucinating, Kerrigan. You finished it yourself."
"Really. I watched you."
I knew he was lying but I still hesitated, doubting my memory for a moment. He sounded so sure of himself — which was usually a dead giveaway that he wasn't telling the truth. As if to confirm it, his face twisted into a grin, at my expense.
"Come on. Time to go."
There had been a time when I was scared of Derwent, and I still wouldn't argue with him, but not because he intimidated me. He was a senior officer and I would never win. Plus, he liked it too much. I threw the bottle into the back of the car with extreme bad temper and slammed the car door as hard as I could. Derwent led the way up the path, past two PCs who were suffering in their body armor. The stab vests were miserably uncomfortable in the heat, I recalled with sympathy, glad that I only had an equipment belt, and that was slung over my shoulder. It was one of the perks of being in CID. The fact that I didn't usually go out on arrest raids or anything that was expected to be violent meant that I hadn't had to wear body armor for a very long time. It was especially hard on the uniforms when there was almost no chance they would need the vests. Whatever violence had been done at number 4 Endsleigh Drive, the danger had been over for hours.
We stopped inside the canvas screens in front of the front door, shedding shoes and pulling on paper suits to avoid contaminating the crime scene. An extra layer was exactly what I didn't need and I wriggled crossly, already stifling.
"What do we know about the victims?"
"Mother and daughter. Vita and Laura Kennford. Mum's forty-nine, Laura's fifteen." Derwent recited the details from memory, without hesitation. He was a far better police officer than casual acquaintance with him might have suggested. The bluff misogyny was a large and unfortunate part of his personality, but he was also razor sharp and totally dedicated to his job.
"And they were stabbed?"
"You know as much as I do about that." He looked at me shrewdly. "You're not trying to spin this out, are you? Trying to find a reason to stay out here until the bodies are gone and the place has been tidied up?"
"Of course not. Why would I do that?"
"Because you don't trust yourself."
He wasn't completely wrong, which made it all the more annoying that he'd spotted what I was doing. I was getting used to dead bodies — I had seen enough of them since I'd started working on Godley's team — but I still couldn't quite take them in my stride. It wasn't the blood or the spilling intestines, the splattered brain matter or the smell of decay, though all of those things had the potential to turn more experienced officers than me pea-green. It was the violence that made me stop in my tracks. The desire to destroy another human being, the will to carry it through, the ruthlessness or thoughtlessness we encountered every day. The waste. And all we could do was sling the killers in prison, if we caught them. I'd never been a fan of the death penalty, but murdered children made me think depriving someone of their liberty was a pretty pathetic punishment.
Meanwhile, Derwent was waiting for an answer. I squared my shoulders. "I know you like to think of me as a shrinking violet, boss, but I'm just not."
"You're hard as nails, Kerrigan. We know that." He took my arm and steered me out of the tent and up to the front door. "Come on. Feel the fear and do it anyway."
Inside the house, I looked past the usual organized chaos of crime-scene technicians and police officers coming and going, searching for signs of what had taken place there. The hall was huge, double-height, with a very modern chandelier suspended in the middle — lozenges of textured glass stuck together at haphazard angles. Wide stairs swept up to an open gallery with rooms leading off it, but all the doors were closed. Bedrooms, I presumed, and bathrooms. Nothing to see from where I stood, anyway. There was no furniture in the hall at all, just a set of double doors on either side and a glass door at the back. The only color came from a tapestry that hung on the wall by the stairs, six feet by ten at a guess, and fiercely abstract in tones of gray and orange.
It was the only color, that is, apart from the red tracks that marked the cream carpet. Blood, still harshly bright in the glare from the chandelier, not yet darkened to brown. Fresh. There was a story there, a narrative that some specialist would unravel, but I couldn't help trying to fathom it. Footsteps coming from the right-hand side of the hall, fading as they got closer to the door at the back, spreading and blurring where water had mingled with blood. Coming back toward the front door, much fainter now. And then a set of smudges on the stairs, where someone or some people had run up two or three at a time, moving fast. A forensics officer was crouching five steps from the top, minutely examining something and then sealing it in a paper envelope. Her concentration was total as she peeled a sheet of sticky film off the carpet. Trace evidence. There'd be a lot of it.
Through the doors on the right I could hear the murmur of conversation and the crack of camera flashes. Derwent made a move toward them but stopped dead when someone said his name. We both turned to see Superintendent Godley coming through the doors on the other side of the hall, looking grim. He had had his silver hair cut since the last time I'd seen him, and a thin line of paler skin traced his hairline. He had just been on holidays, sailing in Croatia, and his tan made his teeth very white and his eyes extra blue. At that moment he was very far from smiling and his eyes were narrow with disapproval.
"You took your time."
"The traffic was terrible. We got here as soon as we could," I explained, cringing a little in spite of myself.
Derwent shrugged. "We're here now. What's going on?"
"Have you ever come across Philip Kennford?" Godley was speaking in a low voice.
"As in the barrister? The QC? That Kennford?"
"Got it in one."
Derwent whistled. "This is his house? Fuck me, there's money in getting criminals off the hook, isn't there?"
"Who is he?"
The inspector turned to look at me, unimpressed. "Don't tell me you've never come up against him, Kerrigan."
"I haven't been doing this for very long," I reminded him. "Only a few of my murders have gone to trial yet."
"But you must have heard of him."
"Vaguely," I said.
"Do you 'vaguely' recall the Catford strangler? That freak who was raping and murdering women in their own homes? He did for eight of them before he got arrested."
I ignored the fact that Derwent had dialed the sarcasm up to eleven. This one I did actually know. "Because his son got done for aggravated assault and the DNA showed he was related to the killer."
Excerpted from The Last Girl by Jane Casey. Copyright © 2012 Jane Casey. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am giving this book 4 stars, but that is probably generous. As with all her books, I really enjoy the characters, plot, and writing style. But the one thing I have a hard time with is the amount of time it takes to really get the story to move along. This story seemed to take a long time to catch my attention, but once I reached about page 150,it started to pick up the pace.
The very beginning of the book is what kept me going through the next 80 pages that were slow. In real life though, that is how cases are solved. It isn't action packed beginning to end. Once you get into it, its hard to put down. I haven't read the books from the beginning of the series but I will definitely be catching the next one. I would find myself thinking about each suspect randomly throughout the day, thinking about an angle. Good finish. Derwent, her partner, was entertaining throughout.