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1984: It looked like a simple job. That was why they gave it to him. Guarding a woman – nameless and almost faceless after a savage acid attack – at a Glasgow hospital, PC Alan McAlpine has no idea that this simple job will haunt his career and change his life forever.
2006: Two decades later, Alan steps into Partickhill police station and back in time. Now a celebrated Detective Chief Inspector, McAlpine has been drafted in to lead the hunt for a man the press are calling ‘the Crucifixion Killer’. Two women are already dead, their mutilated bodies laid with arms outstretched.
With his distinguished reputation, McAlpine’s team are confident their new DCI will lead them to the killer. But the obsession that was born in a hospital room twenty-two years earlier has never quite left Alan. And now, it seems, it’s come back for a reason ...
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When no less an authority on the crime genre than Val McDermid grants the royal seal of approval to a novel, attention must be paid. Caro Ramsay's Absolution is the latest recipient of the McDermid largesse, and this is undoubtedly one of the most impressive debut novels in the field in some time. Of course, the Glasgow setting is familiar territory for aficionados of the tough modern crime novel (and hard-edged Scottish crime writing has been pretty thoroughly colonised by such writers as Ian Rankin), but Ramsay shows that there is still new work to be done in this area.
The Crucifixion Killer is cutting a bloody swathe through luckless female victims, leaving them to bleed to death with their arms outstretched. The case is a hot potato for DCI Alan McAlpine and his associates -- and not just because of the imperative of catching a savage killer. In 1984, McAlpine was just a PC on the beat, assigned to guard a woman whose face been mutilated by an acid attack. Disaster followed this assignment, and McAlpine has been living with the consequences ever since. But as he gets closer to the truth about this more modern monster (aided by his colleagues DS Anderson and DS Costello), it's clear that he needs to settle accounts with ghosts from his own past.
As this synopsis might suggest, we are most definitely in disturbing territory here -- this is the kind of crime writing that takes no prisoners, and those who want comforting Home Counties mysteries should steer well clear. While Ramsay's uncompromising novel has hints round the edges that reminds us it's a debut novel, the final effect is genuinely accomplished, and it's clear that Caro Ramsay is a name we'll be hearing from again. --Barry ForshawReview:
Ramsay handles her characters with aplomb, the dialogue crackles and the search for the killer has surprising twists and turns (Observer)
Many shivers in store for readers, followed by a shattering climax (The Times)
Brilliant in twisting the tension tauter with each page (Guardian)
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Book Description Michael Joseph, 2007. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0718150023