In a new weekly meme Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise asks us to write a blog post about the letter of the week. I thought I’d use the meme to highlight books I enjoyed before I started keeping this blog. I’ve kept ratings for years and kept reading notes in odd places including Good Reads for a while before I started this blog so I should be able to keep participating in this meme.
This week’s letter is A and I’ve decided to talk about Scottish author Caro Ramsay’s first novel, Absolution, which was published in 2007.
The story opens when PC Alan McAlpine returns to work after a family tragedy and is rostered to hospital duty to wait for the awakening of a young woman who lies near death after being the victim of a horrific acid attack. McAlpine is soon obsessed by the woman and even after discovering what led to her predicament he continues to fantasize about her. The novel then leaps forward 20 years and McAlpine is a Detective Inspector who investigating a series of brutal killings
The opening passages of this book are some of the most moving I have read, in any kind of genre, and perfectly sparked my interest in both the story to come and getting to know McAlpine. Ramsay’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and evocative of the time and place. She builds the suspense well and the ending fits logically with the events that went before it which is not always the case with crime fiction these days. There is a thread that I found awkward and unnecessary from a plot development point of view (the car crash) but I can easily forgive this in a book with so much else to recommend it.
One of the more interesting aspects of this particular reading experience is that I enjoyed the book despite the fact I grew to despise the protagonist Alan McAlpine. I suspect readers are supposed to feel sympathetic towards him but I found him totally self-absorbed and hated the way he treats his wife and friends with utter contempt much of the time. In fact I found it a bit of a stretch that everyone around such a person would universally put up with his poor treatment of them, cover for his drunken mistakes and generally ignore the fact he’s a selfish ingrate but I guess it does happen. Happily for the good citizens of Glasgow the dogged and devoted Colin Anderson and smart, courageous Winifred Costello are available to do some actual police work. Likeable or not though, all the characters are well constructed and nicely multi-dimensional.
Ramsay has a new book out this year called Singing to the Dead. It features Colin Anderson who I very much enjoyed in Absolution so I’ve added this one to my wishlist.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I normally direct readers to an author’s website but Ramsay’s is seriously out of date and virtually devoid of useful content. I discussed back in February the fact that large chunks of the publishing industry seem to ignore the internet as a legitimate marketing tool or, worse, treat it with contempt (what else would you call a ‘blog’ with one post written in 2007?).