Introducing DC Maeve Kerrigan
by Jane Casey
Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan, Metropolitan Police. Just six words, but they say a lot about my detective, who has investigated everything from serial killers and domestic dramas to gangland thugs over the course of six books.
Firstly, there’s her rank. As a detective constable, she’s not in charge of everything – but by and large, in real life it’s the detective constables who go out and do the actual investigative work. The chief inspectors are tied up with admin and press conferences and briefings. It’s the DCs who do interviews, search properties, talk to the victims’ families, conduct surveillance operations, make arrests… When I started writing about Maeve, I wanted her to be a new member of an established team, a newly minted detective constable, weighing every word in case it made her sound stupid or arrogant or worse. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in courage, intelligence and good humour.
Secondly, she’s a woman – far from the only one in crime fiction, but a useful contrast to the older male detective who swaggers across so many pages. Their problems are very different from hers. It’s not just sexism that she has to deal with, but the fact that she’s vulnerable when attacked – she’s not going to out-punch most people, unlike the more macho breed of fictional detective. It doesn’t stop her, of course; it makes her think faster. She’s still young but she knows she could miss her chance to be a mother, which worries her even if she’s not sure that’s what she wants. She has to prove herself time and time again, because people will always whisper that she’s got where she is by virtue of being a woman, or pretty, or both.
Thirdly, there’s her name – it’s a dead giveaway that she’s Irish. Actually, she’s London-born, but of Irish parents. I deliberately made her not quite one thing or another – Irish to English people, English to the Irish. From the first moment I thought about her, I knew she would be an outsider. I knew she would struggle to balance the two cultures, cultures that are more different than many people realise. Being part of the British establishment is almost an act of rebellion for someone whose extended family contains various shades of Irish nationalism.
And finally, there’s the Metropolitan Police – an organization that is not immune to criticism, that is large and unwieldy and powerful. Its area of responsibility covers a city where extreme wealth and grinding poverty can be found side by side. A city that draws its populace from every country on earth. A city with a unique character all of its own, with hundreds of distinct neighbourhoods, with millions of stories behind millions of doors. Policing London is a challenge, but writing about it is a pleasure. Maeve is proud to belong to the Met, but moral enough to recognize its failings and try, in her own way, to make up for them.
In The Reckoning I gave Maeve the perfect counterpart in DI Josh Derwent, who challenges her and forces her to face up to her failings, who makes her fight her corner but who would clearly die for her. They have nothing in common and yet share just about everything.
All of these things form the skeleton for Maeve as a character, but after six books she is much more than the sum of these parts. She feels real to me – which is how a lot of writers feel about their creations – but more than that, she feels like a friend.