Friday, October 19, 2018


THE SUFFERING OF STRANGERS by Caro Ramsay (Severn House, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

When a six-week-old baby is stolen from outside a village shop, Detective Inspector Costello quickly surmises there's more to this case than meets the eye. As she questions those involved, she uncovers evidence that this was no impulsive act as the police initially assumed, but something cold, logical, meticulously planned. Who has taken Baby Sholto - and why?

Colin Anderson meanwhile is on the Cold Case Unit, reviewing the unsolved rape of a young mother back in 1996. Convinced this wasn't the first - or last - time the attacker struck, Anderson looks for a pattern. But when he does find a connection, it reaches back into his own past ...

Scottish author Ramsay doesn't go easy on her readers in her series starring her detective duo Costello and Anderson. She's unafraid to address and explore some really tough, gritty issues. In this ninth instalment, the pair have been split up and are operating in different units, and each is plunged into a tricky, testing case. It's an apt title.

DI Costello is still smarting from her sidelining, and is now focused on domestic abuse and looking for a missing six-week-old baby, snatched in her mother's car outside some village shops. Bizarrely, when the car is found another baby - one with Down's Syndrome - was left behind instead.

Anderson is on the cold case unit, reviewing the rape of a young mother back in the mid 1990s. When the victim dies, Anderson's superiors want him to convince Sally Logan, another victim of an historic unsolved rape to do a television appeal for people to speak out about violent and sexual crime.

Sally Logan was Anderson's old college girlfriend, putting him in a very tricky position.

As the cases unfold some unexpected connections begin to appear. With the help of a force-of-nature social worker, Costello realises something far deeper and more organised is going on than just one randomly snatched baby. Meanwhile Anderson has tried to reacquaint himself with Sally and her doctor husband, but at what cost? Will the college reunion be a help or a hindrance, or worse?

Ramsay writes in a straightforward manner with little frills, delivering via character and plot, and some mind-pricking themes. She takes readers into places most British police procedurals avoid. Lots happens, there's some nice action and a multi-layered storyline with memorable supporting characters and situation that really test our two protagonists. They, and readers, may be put through the emotional wringer. A good solid crime read unafraid to address some really tough issues.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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