Fresh Blood

Name: Caro Ramsay

Title of Book: Absolution

'Absolution is a very clear winner by a stunning new author...'

Alan McAlpine is given what looks to be an easy task when he returns from grieving over his dead brother. All he has to do is guard a woman in hospital who had been the victim of a savage acid attack. No one would guess that McAlpine would get so involved and fall in love with this woman who’s name he does not know.

Twenty years later and the young PC is now a bitter Chief Inspector. He is also looking down at the eviscerated body of a woman that not many people liked. This is the second victim of a killer the newspapers are calling ‘The Crucifixion Killer’. McAlpine and his team must catch this man before he claims any more victims. The leads take the team to a centre called The Phoenix Refuge. Is it a refuge for a killer? As the team get ever more involved with the case, for McAlpine it becomes more personal and soon his future and past are colliding in ways he could never imagine.

Caro Ramsey’s first book, Absolution, is a many layered novel. It doesn’t simply deal with a cold killer who is gutting young women in Glasgow, but also with the personal demons of the man who has been placed in charge of the investigation - whilst examining how they slowly begin to unravel his very psyche. McAlpine strikes us as a very sad creature because, despite the twenty year gap, he is still stuck in 1984, still a young PC and still by the bedside of a woman who’s face has been burnt off by acid and with whom he is rapidly falling in love. McAlpine is portrayed as a man who is in love with the notion of love - and yet cannot cope with the reality of the emotion that he receives from his long suffering wife who appears understanding beyond the point of belief.

The story flows along nicely and would, no doubt, very easily transfer onto the TV screen. This would be a perfect substitute now that the gritty Prime Suspect series has finally been laid to rest. The identity of the killer isn’t really a surprise - but the journey to the conclusion is certainly entertaining. Absolution is a very clear winner by a stunning new author who we trust has many more aces up her sleeve, and will be thrilling her growing legion of readers for many years to come.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) Crime novels encompass many sub-genres and styles. How would you describe your book?
I’m not really sure how I would classify the book – I didn’t even know it was police procedural until somebody told me! But if I had to pigeon hole it, I think I would say it was an emotionally intelligent police procedural.
2) What type of crime novels do you prefer? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I read both standalones and series but when it came to writing one, one of my criteria was, when the reader gets to the end of the book they should think ‘Oh I really want to meet these characters again.’ I also think, as an inexperienced writer, it gives me a firm framework to work to.
3) Have you had the idea of writing a crime novel for some time?
No, the idea never really crossed my mind. I was in hospital and really bored. I decided to write a book that started with a woman lying in a hospital bed…. and the rest is history.
Ideas come easily to me, writing comes easy to me, but I still have to learn how to construct the novel correctly. I think I’m getting there.
4) Who or what influenced you to write a crime novel in the first place?
Being stuck in a ward with a load of folk who watched constant reruns of ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire’. If nothing inspires a person to commit murder, that would! I suppose my natural interest in the genre shaped the book I wrote - but I certainly didn’t start out to write a crime novel.
5) Chief Inspector Alan McAlpine is haunted by a crime committed twenty years ago when he was only PC McAlpine. What influenced you to have such a fragile and troubled detective who fell in love with a dead woman?
It was sparked by the idea of iconic love. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Princess Diana will remain beautiful simply because they will never grow old and get cellulite.

What effect would a woman like that have on a sensitive man like Alan McAlpine at such an early age. He projects all his idealism onto her, and she’s not around to prove him wrong is she? Or is she?
6) Much of the book focuses on a charity centre called the Phoenix Refuge. What made you centre the investigation within this environment?
I think that Religion is responsible for most deaths on the face of the planet apart from the mosquito. Scaling that down, there are these who walk amongst us who believe they are superior due to their faith. I just wanted to expose that a little. We are all equal under the skin. In the novel I needed to pull a few faiths together in the one place and The Phoenix was how I did it.

Funnily enough in the area of Glasgow the book is set, it was difficult to find a street, any street, devoid of a place of worship.
7) The Phoenix Refuge is run by members of a church. They don’t come out of it particularly well in the book. Is this a subject you are passionate about?
I was brought up in a Wee Free Environment. I remember going to school with a girl who wore plastic sandals in the middle of winter, even in the snow. On Sunday she would turn up at Sunday school with nice leather shoes on... because it was Sunday. The rest of the week she could die of hypothermia, but that didn’t matter. We were still at primary school, so she was 7 or 8 years old. Then I was expelled from Sunday school for colouring Jesus purple. I thought it suited him.

I’m now non-smoking, non-drinking, meat-free Bhuddist type... but I do swear a lot,
and I eat loads of chocolate.
8) Do you have any further plans for the members of the Partickhill Police Station?
Oh yes, Anderson for the next one. Costello has the one after that. Mulholland has the book after that. Costello actually wears a frock in one and gets a snog from somebody, but I’m not saying who.
9) Would you describe yourself specifically as a Crime fan and, if so, which classic and current authors do you most admire?
One of my great irritations is that I can’t read crime fiction while I am writing it – I become some sort of style amoeba and start to imitate my reading choice of the moment. But, as a kid, I went from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie and Desmond Bagley, then straight onto McDermid and Rankin. You name it, I’ve read it apart from ‘cosy’. I don’t really go there. And nothing where the cat solves the crime. I have the most stupid cat in the world. Yesterday it fell in the fish pond...

Next on the reading list is Nick Stone’s King of Swords.
10) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Can I have two? The Children Of Men by PD James. I couldn’t put that down. And a book called Towards Zero by Agatha Christie. It’s not her best story, but the way it talks about the construction of a murder is very useful when thinking about plotting a book. It pushes the idea further than any book I’ve ever read.
11) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Can’t think of one. Can I cheat and say the TV series Poirot? Just because it is so stylish, and it captures an era and a society we will never see again.

I know they did a film of the Children of Men, but I have not been able to force myself to watch it – just in case they did not do it justice.