Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction Thriller

The Keeper – Jessica Moor

23 February 2020
The Keeper Book Cover The Keeper
Jessica Moor
Penguin Books

An addictive literary thriller about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace. 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.


Poignant, probing and beautifully written, The Keeper will remind us how we have a duty to protect and support the vulnerable and abused in our society. A police investigation thriller that reveals a range of colourful characters, their unique stories and the multiple perspectives people have on domestic abuse.

In two time frames, before and after the dead body of Katie Straw is recovered from a river, the story provides the events and life of Katie up to that point, and the police investigation following it. The obvious conclusion is that it was suicide and the police hope to close the case quickly, however, the women at the refuge centre, where Katie works, think otherwise and claim that she was murdered.

Katie was an abused woman in a relationship with Jamie. A relationship that started with romance and partnership, and gradually morphed into a life of terror, leaving Katie devoid of psychological strength and frightened how Jamie will next manifest his dominance. The slide from romance to abuse is unfortunately common enough and Jessica Moor vividly builds this up with great care and attention to detail.

“She learns to name the demon. To understand that, just as cities can fall without a shot being fired, a woman can relinquish herself, piece by piece.”

The characterisations are excellent and our emotions are pulled towards and driven away from Katie and Jamie as we would want them to be.

The police investigation into Katie’s death exposes many real issues facing abused women, refuge centre staff and the resourcing pressures to continue providing these essential services. The narrative to the plight and range of domestic abuse is powerful and wonderfully observant. Jessica Moor was very clever in her characters and establishing DS Whitworth as someone who doesn’t really want to deal with this issue and who can sweep it away as quickly as possible, gives us the laissez-faire attitude that impairs real action being taken to address this devastating social disease. DS Whitworth along with DC Brook seem out of place as two disconnected men responsible for investigating the death of Katie and being sympathetic towards the horrors faced by many of their female witnesses.

While this is a genuinely tough story, with a crucial moral and social message, Jessica Moor has encapsulated the theme in a drama with wonderful dialogue between fascinating characters and a plot that offers surprises. Described as a literary thriller – yes absolutely!

I would highly recommend this book and I’d like to thank Viking, Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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