When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police are ready to write it off as a standard-issue female suicide. But the residents of the domestic violence shelter where Katie worked disagree. These women have spent weeks or even years waiting for the men they’re running from to catch up with them. They know immediately: This was murder.
Still, Detective Dan Whitworth and his team expect an open-and-shut case–until they discover evidence that suggests Katie wasn’t who she appeared. Weaving together the investigation with Katie’s final months as it barrels toward the truth, The Keeper is a riveting mystery and a searing examination of violence against women and the structures that allow it to continue, marking the debut of an incredible new voice in crime fiction.
Title: Keeper | Author: Jessica Moor | Publisher: Penguin | Pages: 336 | ISBN: 9780143134527 | Publication date: 19th March 2020 | Source: NetGalley
‘Keeper’ (or ‘The Keeper’, it seems to have been published under both titles) is a gripping mystery novel set around a women’s refuge. Given that venue, it’s no surprise that domestic violence is the central theme. This an assured debut from an author who clearly knows the subject matter. As a mystery it doesn’t quite make the top tier, but it is an engrossing and thought-provoking read.
The plot concerns the investigation of the apparent suicide of Katie Straw, a young woman who works at a shelter in a small Northern town for women who have been victims of domestic violence. The action switches regularly between following the investigating officer, a gruff, older copper nearing retirement, and the experiences of the women in the refuge. Author Jessica Moor uses these multiple viewpoints to give an admirably balanced and comprehensive view of domestic violence and true impact it has on its victims. Alongside this, Moor tells Katie’s story in flashback, focussing on her relationship with an abusive boyfriend.
It’s this part of the book that gives ‘Keeper’ its narrative tug, gradually unravelling the mystery of the dead woman as the story progresses. The boyfriend, Jamie, is convincingly creepy. Not a violent wife beater, but instead a quiet monster who gradually erodes Katie’s self-confidence and freedom. Katie is similarly believable, a recognisable everywoman whose plight is moving and compelling.
Moor has experience of working with abused women and that shines through in the book. The stories of the women in the refuge are horribly real and told with a passion that craves justice but resists easy answers. It’s that balance that makes the book so good. The characters feel like real people rather one dimensional outlines conjured up to make a point. The life they breathe into the book makes its message all the more powerful.