Source: Review copy
Publication: 6 December 2022 from Severn House
In the small Highland village of Cronchie, a wealthy family are found brutally murdered in a satanic ritual and their heirloom, ‘the devil stone’, is the only thing stolen. The key suspects are known satanists – case closed? But when the investigating officer disappears after leaving the crime scene, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to investigate from Glasgow in a case that could restore her reputation.
Caplan knows she is being punished for a minor misdemeanour when she is seconded to the Highlands, but ever the professional, she’s confident she can quickly solve the murders, and return home to her fractious family. But experience soon tells her that this is no open and shut case.
She suspects the murder scene was staged, and with the heir to the family estate missing, there is something more at play than a mythical devil stone… As she closes in on the truth, it is suddenly her life, not her reputation that is danger! Will Caplan’s first Highland murder case be her last?
Wow! This one opens up with a dramatic scene and sets the pace for a fast moving, gripping drama with a protagonist you know you want to see so much more of.
DCI Christine Caplan has very clearly pissed someone off. She’s going through disciplinary action as a result of misplaced evidence and as she’s returning home after an evening out with her daughter she bravely foils a mugger – only to face accusations of excessive force. Under a cloud and facing demotion to D.I. she’s utterly fed up when she is sent to the small Highland village of Cronchie to help out. The long-standing DCI, Bob Oswald, has gone missing in the midst of a horribly brutal family slaying.
Oswald was in charge of a high profile macabre case in which 5 members of the wealthy and privileged McGregor family, the elderly Lady Charlotte, parents Stan and Barbara, and their children, Catriona and Gordon are discovered strangled, and posed next to each other.
The police investigation has focussed on the two lads who found the family, but Christine is less convinced. Her insertion into the team has, however, provoked some annoyance and she needs to get them on side if they are to be effective in investigating this horrendous crime. DI Garry Kinsella clearly resents her presence and she feels that she’s being kept at arm’s length from the information she needs.
Keen to restore her good name and equally keen to make sure she can return to her family which is giving her some cause for concern on a number of fronts, she puts herself under a lot of pressure.
Part of the joy of this book is the disparate cast of characters, especially in the local Cronchie police team. It’s difficult for her to work out whether they are being deliberately obstructive or are just struggling under a temporary leader in D.I. Kinsella.
Caro Ramsay establishes a wonderful sense of place and the contrast between the beautiful Highland scenery and the dark and dangerous going on there creates a wonderful threatening atmosphere and builds a tension that rapidly grows into a dangerous and life-threatening series of events. The plot line is tremendous; dark and sinister with a myriad of suspects. As Christine juggles with events and personalities at home in Glasgow and in the Highlands her life will be threatened and she will be driven to desperate measures to find the guilty party.
Verdict: Caro Ramsay has created a brilliant set of characters for this first in series police procedural. You want to know much more about Christine Caplan who is clearly a competent and professional officer despite the many personal and professional obstacles she faces. This is a brilliant start to a new series that is clearly going to be unmissable.
CARO RAMSAY is the Glaswegian author of the critically acclaimed DI Anderson and DS Costello series, the first of which, Absolution, was shortlisted for the CWA’s New Blood Dagger for best debut of the year. The ninth book in the series, The Suffering of Strangers, was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize 2018.