Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Rat Run – Caro Ramsay

Crime Thriller 4*s
Crime Fiction

In an insular community just seven miles from Glasgow the shadow of the murder of Sue Melrose and her two young sons back in 1992, still casts darkness over a row of houses. Up on the hill above the street Jock Aird sits and surveys all that he owned, watching the current inhabitants of the street. The man convicted of the young mother’s murder and that of the two boys and the family dog sits in prison protesting his innocence.

Meanwhile DCI Colin Anderson is waiting to hear if he is to be allowed back to work after a year on sick leave since his last case which saw him lose his lover and nearly his life. DI Costello is anxious, not sure whether he is fit to come back to work or not, but also longing to get away from her desk bound job and back to action.

Fortunately a new discovery means that action is about to come DI Costello’s way, and against a brooding backdrop of relentless rain which only serves to increase the claustrophobic atmosphere we meet the characters who live in the street in August 2015. The old case is reviewed with an aim to shore up the conviction against the man sat in prison, Andrew Gyle, reviewing those horrific images from twenty-three years before, combing the files and carrying out the necessary traces on those who were connected to the case.

Caro Ramsay executes this dark tale with a deft pen. The plot is fairly complex with many characters from the past and the present all seemingly with something to hide or infected by dark minds makes this far from a cheery read, but one that digs deep into the souls of all those involved. This is an author that doesn’t depend on left-field revelations, the clues are there for the denouement and I’m proud to say that I used these to work out the whodunit although I wasn’t quite there with the why. Not an easy task when there are many suspicious events, lots of people with nefarious intent but also some shining examples of the better side of human nature to keep this story from becoming so bleak that it seemed impossible to finish.

This is the seventh in the Anderson and Costello series and none of the books I have read, and no I didn’t start from the beginning (just for a change) read like the more traditional police procedural. Aside from Anderson’s return to work interviews and the brief that as much information about the new discovery was to be kept from the media, this story doesn’t concern itself with police politics. The members of the team are all individuals borrowing little from the stereotypical police cardboard cut-outs that are commonly used in such tales. We do hear a little about the protagonists private lives, mainly about Anderson’s struggle to overcome the psychological damage inflicted on him, and his family, but refreshingly the core of the story is kept to the forefront at all times.

If you like your crime thrillers to be full of thrills, you can’t go far wrong with this one but be warned, there are fairly graphic descriptions and if rats freak you out, this is not a bedtime story for you!!

Published UK eBook: 1 August 2016
Publisher: Severn House
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Tears of Angels – Caro Ramsay

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

I read and enjoyed The Night Hunter which was the last in the Anderson & Costello series, but as it didn’t really feature the two detectives at length I was unsure about this duo and had the usual question, is it possible to enjoy part way through the series? The answer is yes, this read perfectly well as a standalone and I didn’t really feel that I had missed anything pertinent to the complex mystery that unfolded.

In short there at the time of the solstice an elderly woman burnt in her bed, clearly not an accident but who would want to kill a defenceless old woman? There is no time to dwell on this at all though as a man has been found dead in a field in a particularly nasty killing. When the detectives find his ID they realise that he has links to crimes committed around the solstice a year previously. On this occasion two young boys were the victims but it appears that there is more to this tale than meets the eye.

This is not a book for the squeamish; there is a lot of violence and a high body count but there is also a solid and intricate mystery at the heart of the book.  With a mixture of tales from the past and a wide range of characters the reader needs their wits about them to follow the storyline, particularly in the beginning where I began to despair especially since my concentration is well below par at the moment, but the perseverance paid off. This was one hell of a tale, impeccably plotted with all the sub-plots working out to perfection.

Despite the darkness of the story, the descriptive writing made me want to visit the location. In this case the setting by Loch Lomond was beautifully depicted, I was quite tempted to join one of the cast swimming in the clear blue water off the island as she examined the scene, imagining the night that three young boys played together on the island while their parents partied on the shore keeping themselves warm next to a bonfire. The other scenes are set in Glasgow and surrounding countryside which is equally vivid as Anderson and Costello work hard to find the culprit and clear up a few other mysteries along the way.

I have to admit, and maybe this is where the previous books in the series would have made a difference, that I found both these detectives a little hard to warm to.  Anderson has been having an affair and there are complications caused by that but at the heart he seems to be a decent sort of man. Costello is a woman with a nice line in caustic wit and adept at moving things along having a healthy disregard for police politics. These two don’t spend all their time together and seem to be able to work independently and with others which gives the reader a chance to see them as individuals and not just a partnership.  As this novel has a large cast, there are plenty of secondary characters ranging in age from youngsters to a man in his eighties and all appear to be credible and well-rounded. It isn’t always to spot the bad guy (or gal) that’s for sure.

I will be continuing to read this series, and I may well be tempted to take my library card and see if I can start at the beginning of this series with its intelligent and engaging writing.

I’d like to thank the publishers Severn House for providing a copy of this book ahead of publication on 1 September 2015 in return for this honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Green and Pleasant Land – Judith Cutler

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction

Twenty years ago a woman and her young son disappeared one cold and wet night in the midlands, on the back seat her youngest son, just a baby was dead. What happened to Natalie and Hadrian simply disappeared and the police investigation at the time soon ground to a halt. Retired Fran Harman and her partner Mark are asked to act on a consultancy basis to re-open the cold case. Eager to give their problem solving skills a work-out they agree and set off to work in the most unusual police building that rivals Downton Abbey.

It doesn’t take long for Fran and Mark to realise that they haven’t been given the full story, the man who commissioned them has been made redundant and the incumbent seems to be less than delighted to work with them. With a tiny team to work with there is more about the logistics of managing the investigation as they travel far and wide to visit those who worked on the case originally along with Natalie’s parents and others who provided witness statements. No sooner than they’ve started it appears that someone wants them gone, the question is who and why?

I soon realised that this is actually the sixth in the Fran Harman series so I’ve missed quite a lot of the back story, not that it seemed to matter. Fran and Mark are a likeable, friendly and competent pair of (former) officers even if some of the police force they have been sent to work with seem less than willing to be helpful. There is a lot of dialogue in Green and Pleasant land which took a while to get used to but came to the conclusion it is part of what makes the book feel as though it is a half-way house between a cosy mystery and a regular police procedural. There are no gory details in this book, anything too scary happens ‘off-screen’ and yet don’t be deceived, there is still plenty of complexity to the plot to hold the readers interest. It isn’t a pedestrian read either, there is plenty of action which especially towards the end had me willing everything to work out for the best. In some ways this book has a slightly ‘old-fashioned’ feel but it still manages to stay contemporary with details of Police Commissioner’s roles, recent ‘real-life’ investigations and use of modern technology.

I was impressed with Judith Cutler’s writing and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up more from this series to find out what happened to these characters before their retirement. If Green and Pleasant Land is anything to go by I’m sure there was an intriguing back story that you need the earlier volumes to discern.

I’d like to thank the publishers Severn House for allowing me a to read a copy of this book for review purposes ahead of the publication date of 1 April 2015.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Night Hunter – Caro Ramsay

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction

Sophie McCulloch, a lawyer, has been missing for 57 days having gone for a run one evening from her home in Glasgow and never returned. Her sister Elvira is worried, her brother Grant is suffering from depression and her mother is rarely sober. With he police convinced that Sophie left home with a married man, who has is also missing, Rob, her mother’s boyfriend has set up a page on social media to capture the last known photos of Sophie, taken at her birthday party shortly before she vanished. Elvira didn’t attend not being a sociable girl. Soon after Sophie disappears her sister defers her university course studying medicine and takes up a post as a nanny to a very wealthy man who she suspects has employed her to keep an eye on his wife Mary.

The Night Hunter is written from Elvira’s point of view, in first person present tense narrative, and follows the trail of not only Sophie but other missing young women whose cases appear to be linked. They were all young women who had gone out for a run, never to return. Elvira is an unusual character and several references are made to her appearance, her face covered in acne and excessive hair and these are in complete contrast to the beautiful missing girls. Elvira then teams up with an ex-cop, Billy Hopkirk, who is working for one of the girl’s mothers as a private detective. Billy is a clever but strange man who was probably the most endearing character of this book and with his connections he manages to open doors to the inner workings of the case.

The plot is good with clues about the girl’s disappearance slowly revealed, often through the police officer Costello who is in charge of the case. Although billed as part of the Anderson and Costello series, they aren’t central to the story with the main action taking place with Elvira and Billy as they roam around Glasgow linking seemingly disparate pieces of information together and following leads. The only mild criticism I have is that the views and descriptions of the other characters viewed by Elvira’s slightly unfriendly eyes makes them feel remote and less rounded than they could do. This is particularly true of Sophie who seems quite an insubstantial character despite her sister’s obvious bond with her, highlighted by the poem The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti which they adopted as their own imagining themselves to be Lizzie and Laura. There is also a lot of misery running through this tale with few moments of relief especially as poor Elvira and her family seem to live a life of unrelenting misfortune.

The plot is good and truly chilling especially as the author ramps up the tension and the pace towards a gripping ending to this mystery.

I’d like to thank the publishers Severn House for my copy of this book in return for my hones opinion.