Lately I’ve been reading a lot of crime books. I have to say I’m loving it too as I enjoy the thrilling tension I experience reading these books. I also love how these books really make me think as I play amateur detective trying to work out who the baddies are. One of these novels is The Devil Stone, the first book in the new DCI Christine Caplan thriller series. Written by critically acclaimed author Caro Ramsay, this police procedure novel was recently released in paperback on 31 August 2023 following it being published in hardback in December 2022 to rave reviews.
The novel opens dramatically and sets the scene for what’s to come. In the first few pages we readers experience an individual dangerously jumping while high and intoxicated with the River Clyde in the background; small town burglars discovering the brutal, Satanical murders of a family in their Highlands ancestral home, and a mugging and heart attack in Glasgow city centre. Straight away I found this novel thrilling and thought provoking.
DCI Christine Caplan is an intriguing, flawed character. Yet she has a raw vulnerability about her that really endeared me to her. Although she aims to present the appearance of poised control to the world, this is just an illusion as her life is very much out of control. Caplan is on the brink of loosing her career, recently being demoted from a Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) to a Detective Inspector (DI); her family life is in disarray as she cares for her husband who is experiencing mental health issues; and she is increasing worried about money as she is the sole breadwinner in the family, yet her demotion means a pay cut. To add to this, Caplan’s son is increasing disengaging from normal life whilst racking up astronomical credit card debt.
Caplan also has a past, including an illicit affair with a colleague that she and her friend Lizzie always refer to as ‘The Bastard‘. I have an exciting feeling that Caplan’s relationship with ‘The Bastard‘ will be explored further in future books within the series, especially as ‘The Bastard‘ is Lizzie’s ex husband. I am really intrigued by this complex dynamic.
In an attempt to restore Caplan’s reputation following her demotion – which is also connected to Lizzie – Caplan is seconded to the Highlands to work with the small town police team trying to solve the brutal, Satanic killings of the wealthy MacGregor family at Otterburn House, who had lived there for generations. The house is full of expensive possessions, yet the only item missing at the crime scene is the Devil Stone, a family heirloom that is rumoured to bring death if removed from the ancestral home. Although deemed an open and shut case with two known Satanists being the main suspects, the investigation becomes complicated with the lead investigating officer mysteriously going missing.
Although experiencing quite a bit of small town hostility from her colleagues, Caplan finds some of the local police happy to involve her more in the investigation. Yet Caplan is unsure who in the police force she can trust, especially as she has an increasing sense she is being set up, especially following an incident that occurred in Glasgow prior to her secondment. As Caplan’s fears intensify and she gets closer to revealing some devastating truths, she realises that not only is her career at risk, but her life and also the lives of her family are in danger.
The crux of the novel is mainly set in the fictitious village of Cronchie located on the west coast of Scotland. Originally coming from just outside of Glasgow, the west coast of Scotland is an area I am very familiar with, spending many summers during my childhood and teenage years in similar areas to Cronchie. Therefore that is one of the reasons I loved the sense of setting within this novel, but it is not the only reason. The small knitted community within the Highlands setting enhances the taut tension that runs throughout the novel.
The Devil Stone is full of interesting and complex characters. I had to concentrate while reading it, especially as I struggled to keep up with some of the characters at times as more and more seemed to be introduced as the novel progressed. As I mention above, The Devil Stone is a very thought-provoking read and once I finished it I couldn’t stop thinking about all the different plot threads and how they tie together. I am sure more about Caplan and her relationships will be revealed in the forthcoming thrillers within this series, which I am very excited about.
Thank you Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of The Devil Stone. To follow the blog tour, please see below.