- Alisa Williams
The Keeper by Jessica Moor – Book Review
The Keeper by Jessica Moor was absolutely fantastic. I finished reading it awhile ago and it has stuck with me. Not only is it a well-crafted mystery, but it’s an important examination of domestic violence from the inside out.
Synopsis from the publisher:
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.
I haven’t encountered a mystery novel crafted quite like this one before. We start out knowing Katie’s dead and are simultaneously learning about the case as it unfolds and hearing about Katie’s final months from her perspective, basically in diary form. We know from the get-go who her killer most likely is, and I think this is intentional. Yet, we don’t know the hows or whys of it all. Those slowly develop over the course of the book.
Moor does an incredible job of showing the often slow and insidious nature of domestic violence. Katie is just your average young woman, with friends and a boring job and a mom who loves her. Then she meets a guy, and he seems sweet if a little run-of-the-mill. She’s not super into him but he’s attentive and caring and who wouldn’t be attracted to that? As the relationship develops, we start to see red flags, and Katie sees them too, but they’re small and irregular and she thinks maybe she’s overreacting. We see her slowly lose her sense of self and self-worth, and her ability to trust herself and her own instincts as the abuse becomes more frequent and pronounced.
When she finds her way to a domestic violence shelter, it’s the chance for a fresh start, and we get to meet the women she interacted with there, women who come from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, whose stories are all unique, except for the common thread of violence and abuse. Moor does a good job of showing the many forms abuse can take, and the varied reactions victims have to it, as well as how difficult it is to seek and find help, and to ever truly be safe, let alone feel safe.
This book is more than just a great mystery; it’s a peek behind the curtain into what so many individuals have faced and are facing, and just how easy it is for the justice system to not only fail them, but to actively acerbate the problem.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Alisa Williams is the managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org. She blogs at alisawilliamswrites.com, tweets at @AWWritesStories, and bookstagrams at @AllyWritesStories.
Book cover image courtesy of Penguin Books.