Scottish crime author Caro Ramsay comes off her thirteen book Anderson and Costello crime series with the unrelated The Devil Stone. Ramsay introduces a new main character DCI Christine Caplan who starts this book in a world of professional and personal trouble, definitely enough to carry her through more than one book as those connections are untangled and second – In her Blood – on the way. In doing so, Caplan follows a well worn path of a group of fictional detectives.
In disgrace, DCI Christine Caplan is temporarily demoted and sent to the small Scottish village of Cronchie to support an investigation into the death of a family of five, seemingly during a satanic ritual. Ramsay is needed as the DCI on the case went missing the night the bodies were found. But she is also glad to get away from her troubled family, including a depressed husband and a video-game obsessed teenager. It is not long before Caplan begins to suspect that the murders had nothing to do with satanism and that there is a corrupt officer on her new team.
Sending a highly competent but troubled detective to a small town has become a staple trope of the genre. In Australia, for example we have Garry Disher’s Paul Hirschhausen, relegated to country South Australia, and Chris Hammer’s Ivan Lucic, who has been banished from Sydney to work in rural areas. The ironic thing about the Scottish equivalent is that Ramsay only ever seems to be a couple of hours drive from her Glasgow home base. Still, there is plenty of play made about the differences between country and city policing and it allows Ramsay to bring Caplan in as an outsider, distrustful of everyone and distrusted in return due to her checkered past.
Overall The Devil’s Stone is a solid Scottish-noir procedural that also delves into Line of Duty territory with potentially corrupt officers leaving Caplan isolated and not knowing who to trust. So that it can all build to a fairly intense finale. Caplan’s family dramas are played as a bit of a mystery, which makes it difficult to care too much in the early going of the story but come good towards the end. And Caplan has a range of relationships in the Force which she both draws on and makes her vulnerable but those connections are likely to be critical to giving some breadth to the individual investigations as this series goes forward. And given Ramsay’s previous works, it is likely that Caplan is here for the long haul.