The Cutting Place is the ninth book – and there have been a few short stories too – in Dublin-born, London-based Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series, with the heroine now now sporting the rank of Detective Sergeant. This time around a hand washes up out of the Thames, which turns out to belong to journalist Paige Hargreaves. She had been investigating the goings on in the Chiron Club, a private members boys’ den for the very rich where some seriously seedy behaviour takes place. The club inspires intense loyalty from its members thanks to blackmail, and in a series of flashbacks we’re told of another dead body, this time in a swimming pool near the village of Standen Fitzallen, although the character doing the remembering can’t remember much.
Kerrigan, a properly rounded character, and that rare thing in crime fiction, a detective without any major personality problems, investigates what turns out to be a complicated case. They eye of suspicion falls on well-off young lads Roddy, Orlando and Luke, and the water gets further muddied when it turns out that a suspect has a personal relationship with one of Kerrigan’s team. The members and staff of the club are proper boo & hiss villains, especially head heavy Carl Hooper and the odious club boss Sir Marcus Gley, and the more that is revealed about what goes on behind their closed doors – young women and men being compensated once they allow themselves to be taken advantage off – the more the reader longs for their comeuppance.
A secondary plot involves Kerrigan’s boyfriend, Seth Taylor, who seems like a bad one from the off, hated as he is by police colleague Josh Derwent – a likeable braggart with the requisite bit of darkness thrown in – who would appear to have a thing for Maeve. This sub-plot explodes in a disturbing way, and is skilfully handled by Casey, who avoids both sentimentality and sensationalism.