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The Tears of Angels by Caro Ramsay

August 26, 2015

Past crimes cause new murder in this tense and twisting psychological thriller

A few days before the summer solstice a 92-year-old woman is found burned to death in her home. On the same day, a man’s mutilated corpse is discovered in a field, his arms ripped from their sockets, a Tarot card depicting The Fool inserted in his mouth.

When the victim is identified as someone for whom the police have been looking for almost a year, detectives Anderson and Costello find themselves caught up in a case where nothing is as it seems. Was the dead man really responsible for three child murders? And what is the connection with the death of the elderly woman?

The investigation leads to the tranquil shores of Loch Lomond where Anderson and Costello will finally uncover the shocking truth.

I was prompted to read this book after listening to Caro Ramsay at Bristol’s Crimefest where I found her to be both interesting and knowledgeable on the subject of psychopaths. And there’s no doubt that you do get an awful lot of book for your money!

There is in depth characterisation, thorough plotting and Ramsay cleverly interweaves the story lines until they come together into a satisfying whole. This is the 4th in her Anderson and Costello series, and it worked perfectly well for me as a stand-alone novel (though I will now be going back to read the other three). Set in Glasgow and in an off the beaten track location by the shores of Loch Lomond, near Balloch, The Tears of Angels is an engrossing police procedural. In Glasgow, an old lady is burned to death in her home.

Elsewhere, a man’s body is found in a field, mutilated in a quite disturbing fashion. Each body has a black tarot card though it’s unclear whether anything else links these two victims. Then the police believe that they have identified the dead man as a wanted suspect, Warren McAvoy, who has been successfully eluding their grasp for over a year.

On the shores of Loch Lomond, tragedy has struck more than once. The three families that used to regularly holiday there during the summer solstice, suffered tragic loss when three of their children were killed – and the disappeared Warren McAvoy is the chief suspect. The media are all over the discovery of McAvoy’s body and the deaths of the children now are at the top of their agenda again.

Questions are being asked about the police’s competence in the investigation. Elvie McCulloch works for a PI firm that was hired by Warren’s estranged American father to find his son. She is also contacted by a young girl, Amy Lee, from Canada who is looking into her grandfather Bert’s Scottish roots as a genealogy project for school. She asks Elvie to help her with her project. Anderson and Costello begin the task of investigating these crimes and in so doing they need to re-investigate the deaths of the children – it’s clear that all these crimes are connected.

This is where Ramsay excels. She takes an intricate plot and slowly, through many twists and turns, she reveals how each piece of the puzzle finally fits together. Her characters are flawed with very real human foibles and the key players all have their own domestic issues to deal with, not least of which are many fractured relationships.

As the tarot cards begin to turn up with increasingly regularity, it is clear that revenge is top of the killer’s agenda. But is this vigilante behaviour or something more sinister? Ramsay takes us on a fast paced and complex journey during which many more bodies are found and the quiet peace of Loch Lomondside is ruptured by death and devastation once more. The Tears of Angels combines excellent characterisation with deft and detailed plotting to produce a police investigation that enthralls and keeps you guessing right to the end.

The Tears of Angels is punished in paperback on 1st September by Severn House

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