Keeper by Jessica Moor

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Keeper by Jessica Moor

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An exceptional debut reveals an author who is now firmly on my 'must follow' list. A cracking story about domestic violence which I finished all too quickly.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: March 2020
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0241396841

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Katie Straw worked in the women's refuge and the women who lived there liked and respected her. She treated them well and seemed to have an understanding of what they were going through. Why then did she jump from the local suicide spot into the river below? There had been no signs that she was unhappy and she and her boyfriend seemed to have been content together - and Noah has a decent alibi for the time when she died, but what other explanation could there be for her death? The police are convinced that it's suicide, but the women who knew her believe otherwise.

It's a phrase I've used myself: he's a keeper. I mean that he's a man with the sort of qualities which you'd be looking for in a relationship, but there's a double meaning and so often they can be applied to the same person. That person who appears to the outside world to be so thoughtful, so accommodating and loving can be controlling and even violent in private. It's often, if not impossible, to persuade the outside world or even yourself that he's the problem - not you. (I should mention here that whilst it's often the man who is controlling and violent, it's not unknown for the woman to be coercive and controlling - or to be violent.)

Jamie did seem perfect, too. He was a police officer and was only too willing to help out with Katie's mother who was suffering from terminal cancer. The women in the refuge didn't know Katie's story, but they knew their own histories. There was the younger brother who beat up his sister because she didn't want to get married. All her father would say was that he shouldn't have been so aggressive. One woman had suffered abuse for forty-nine years before she realised that enough was enough. Lynne was mentally unstable: her husband coped by being violent.

Such situations are commonplace, but there are few remedies in place and many of these rely on charity rather than the state, in the form of the social services or the police: Val Greenwood was derided, trolled on social media but still did her best to help the women who came to her refuge for safety.

Jessica Moor tells a superb story - the plotting is excellent and the characterisation superb. I believed in every one of these women and they stayed with me long after I'd turned the final page of the book. Keeper achieves something quite remarkable though: Moor informs us about domestic violence without ever making it seem as though she's delivering a lecture. She gives confidence to those who might be suffering and reassurance to those who might have tried to leave an abusive relationship but failed. It's a superb story which had me on the edge of my seat and I really can't wait to see what Moor writes next. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more on domestic violence, we can recommend What have I done? by Amanda Prowse and the superb White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

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