Review: Eleven Days by Stav Sherez
Faber & Faber | May 2013 | Reviewed by Maria Whelan
Following the success of A Dark Redemption, the first book in Stav Sherez’s Carrigan and Miller mystery series, Sherez returns with its captivating sequel, Eleven Days. A fire breaks out in a convent situated in the sleepy periphery of London eleven days before Christmas. The victims of this tragic event are ten nuns and an unidentifiable adolescent girl. It is up to DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller to uncover the motives of this arsenic attack, and to determine how the mysterious girl fits this puzzle. From the offset, readers are struck by a myriad of questions, such as, why did the nuns make no effort to escape? And, how does the presence of cocaine in the crime scene fit into the case?
In a sense, Eleven Days encompasses all that is to be expected from a good detective novel: every new character is guilty until proven innocent, and every lead turns out to be a dead end. Yet this book is more than your typical British police force crime fiction. The Roman Catholic Chruch, corrupt Eastern European drug barons, and Peruvian political corruption lie at the heart of the narrative, overriding the normally predictable formula. Sherez takes his readers on a “literary Tour de France,” taking us from London to the depths of Peru and back to solve the mystery.
The clash between the religious and violent imagery in this book is Sherez’s way of exploring the twentieth century’s perception of morality. For Sherez this preoccupation was particularly close to heart, working part-time as literary editor at the Catholic Herald. Sherez challenges religious virtue by suspending the portrayal of the Church’s rectitude. In Eleven Days, the figures representing the Catholic Church are secretive and overly self-righteous. In comparison, Detectives Miller and Carrigan are spurred on by their urge for justice. This dichotomy adds further gravity to the novel.
As a reader, one cannot help but marvel at the avenues Sherez could take the book. As a skilled detective writer, his intended trajectory is not fully relieved until the very end. The intricacies of this mystery novel exemplify Sherez’s talent. The abundance of twists and subplots keeps readers engrossed. “It was like a fabled onion,” Sherez writes. “Peel off one layer and there is always something worse underneath.”
Looming in the background of this investigation is the holiday season, which lends itself to the pace of the book. The sense of urgency is what drives the book forward, making it difficult to put down. Apart from the consuming case, Sherez divulges us with the personal lives of the detectives, adding a further verisimilitude to the story. Incidentally, the subtle undercurrent of sexual tension between both Carrigan and Miller provides a sense of intrigue and refuge from the otherwise gruesome book. While written in third person, arguably it is Carrigan’s misanthropic voice that perpetrates the narrative. The sardonic tone and plenitude of quips nicely captures the perceived essence of the police force.
Eleven Days is an arresting novel, laced with enough surprises to captivate the reader.
For more information, please visit Faber & Faber’s website.
Posted: Apr 1, 2015
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