March 10, 2020
The Keeper by Jessica Moor is a very compelling story. This story is part literary fiction and part police procedural that explores coercive control, domestic violence, and how a woman can have her identity gradually eroded. It is very relevant today because statistics are showing that with the lock down due to the Corona Virus domestic violence is on the upswing.
“My previous job was to secure funding for women’s shelters. I read all the government policy documents and domestic violence reviews that discussed women getting killed or beaten up. One of my co-workers who I sat next to had the job to review every domestic homicide that happened in the UK. She would sigh and be saddened because men get away with it. In the UK, two women per week are killed by domestic violence, and in the US, it is five per week. I hope this story can make readers understand these shocking statistics.”
Readers first meet Katie Shaw as she is lying on a slab. The mystery begins with the police questioning whether it was a suicide or a murder, and if so, who was the killer? The reason DS Whitworth and DC Brook look at it more closely is that the occupants at Women’s Aid, a refuge center where Katie worked, strongly believe that someone was responsible for her death.
“I tried to put in the story how those that kill are doing it to reassert control. There are five major forms: Physical, emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual. I tried to cover them all without it becoming a box checking exercise. A lot of men grow up with the idea that violence is a solution.”
In an alternating narrative, Katie relates the deterioration of her relationship with boyfriend Jamie, who’s initially indulgent, overprotective, and then becomes isolating, controlling, and manipulative. Jamie appears to be a personable and charming man, but he became a monster, with the relationship sliding from romance to abuse. Through Katie’s eyes, Moor shows how an intelligent, resourceful woman could become trapped in an abusive relationship. The story showed how easy it is to be manipulated, no matter how smart. Her life morphed into one of terror, leaving Katie devoid of psychological strength, frightened, and experiencing physical/emotional abuse.
“I wrote Katie as bright, educated, middle class, with no unusual problems. But then she ends up in a controlling possessive relationship. She is quiet, but not unusually so and does lack a bit of self-confidence. At first, Jamie is very normal and totally lacks imagination. Sometimes Katie perceives that the lack of imagination is good for her. But then he becomes judgmental, jealous, and controlling. He does think he owns her. Although he is not Machiavellian, he does have a perceived idea of what people should be like. This is how Jamie perceives the world. I do not think he has a lot of respect for women.”
Readers take a journey with the character as they want to desperately help Katie out. This is a powerful debut from Jessica Moor, looking at the tragic, secretive and harrowing complex world of domestic violence. The author builds up the tension well and successfully gives women of domestic violence a voice.