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Keeper: Little refuge but much reward in Jessica Moor's visceral tale of abuse

Fiction: Keeper

Jessica Moor

Viking, hardback, 336 pages, €16

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Keeper of the faith: Jessica Moor has drawn on her own experience of women's refuges in her debut novel

Keeper of the faith: Jessica Moor has drawn on her own experience of women's refuges in her debut novel

Keeper by Jessica Moor

Keeper by Jessica Moor

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Keeper of the faith: Jessica Moor has drawn on her own experience of women's refuges in her debut novel

Katie meets Jamie in a bar. She's a young office worker, he's a prison officer, and they're both living at home with their mothers. He's instantly interested in her, and direct about it, though he turns down her advances, explaining that he wants to get to know her "properly" first. There are some early warning signs - he doesn't ask Katie anything about herself, he orders her drinks without checking what she likes, and he insists on walking her home when she'd prefer a taxi to rest her aching feet - but Katie brushes them off and decides to give things a go with him.

From this first encounter, the narrative jumps ahead to "now", just after Katie's body has been recovered from the river. The detective assigned to the case, Daniel Whitworth, doesn't have much experience investigating homicide in the small English town of Widringham, and besides that, he's looking forward to his retirement. His assessment is quick: "The body had all the hallmarks of a mundane, self-inflicted death. Your standard-issue female corpse."

While Whitworth and his trainee, Detective Constable Brookes, are happy to write off Katie's death as a suicide - an open-and-shut case of "middle-class disappointment" - the staff and residents at the women's refuge where Katie worked aren't so sure it's that simple.