The Sideman by Caro Ramsay

Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on The Sideman, the latest Anderson and Costello novel from Caro Ramsay. Not going to lie, this is my first Caro Ramsay book, but I’ve been meaning to read her books for ages. The opportunity presented itself and I thought, why the heck not right? So how did I get on reading a book so far into the series? (I have form for this so it’s not so unexpected) Read on to find out:

Source: Advance Reader Copy

About the Book

With no evidence against him and no known motive, DI Costello must break the rules if she is to get her man.

Detective Inspector Costello has resigned. No notice, no goodbyes. Convinced that George Haggerty murdered his wife and son despite his cast-iron alibi, Costello has gone solo, determined to expose a ruthless killer without being hampered by police protocol. But is she right about Haggerty’s guilt? And where has she disappeared to?

DCI Colin Anderson has no time to ponder the loss of his partner of twenty years. With a badly beaten body found on a remote mountain pass; a woman with a serious head wound who won’t communicate in any way; and a substantial pool of blood discovered at the edge of Loch Lomond, Police Scotland have their hands full. Could there be any connection to Costello’s disappearance …?

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books | Hive

My Thoughts

Well, don’t I feel like a prize plonker? What on earth was I thinking agreeing to read this book. Such a mistake. Now I need to go back and read the first nine because I now know what I always suspected – I’ve been missing out on a heck of a series. Still … There are worse situations to be in, don’t you think? And yes, you can argue it was completely self inflicted as it’s always a risk when reading late in a series, but hey. The gamble paid off as I loved it and am actually looking forward to playing catch up. Word to the wise though, if you are thinking of joining the series late, I’d probably suggest starting with an earlier book as this contains some what I assume to be spoilers for prior books, so if you want a complete surprise, start at least a few books in advance.

Well, the book certainly started in quite dramatic fashion. it’s not every story that starts with the resignation of one of its major characters, that’s for sure. The whys and the wherefores of the decision are what we are here to find out, but it follows a pretty dramatic case that takes a real emotional toll on DI Costello. And it has to be said that whilst this is a book very much about Costello and her boss, DCI Anderson, it features her a lot less than you might expect, a decision that works perfectly for this complex and twisted thriller.

I”ll be honest, it is hard to talk about the story without knowing giving too much away. What you need to know is in the blurb. Costello is determined to prove the guilt of a man she believes to be behind a very vicious murder, but who appears to have the perfect alibi. Alongside that, the victim’s sister is now the prime suspect and focused on proving her innocence. Both women have the same goal but very different approaches. It was hard to get to know anything about Costello from the way the story played out, but I learned a lot about Valerie, the victim’s sister. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Caro Ramsay built her character up within the story. You weren’t always sure of her motives and her actions were sometimes dubious to say the least, but the intention was, on the face of it, good. I think …

Anderson, on the other hand, I got to learn a lot more about and I really liked him as a character (even if I really did want to call him Abbott more often than I should). He has a very complicated home life, something that feeds into the story perfectly with careful treatment. It both hinders and helps the progression of the investigation into the murders, although how is not immediately apparent. His personal circumstances preclude him from being actively involved in the investigation, but it doesn’t stop him from finding an angle he can legitimately follow to try and help his former DI. His loyalty, although sorely tested, was very endearing. although I could feel his weariness (both physical and mental) bleeding from every page.

This is a very dark and twisted story, with several threads for the readers to follow. The wayin which the author pulls them all together, the final picture that starts to emerge as they draw tighter, is both surprising and satisfying. There are so many scenes that will leave readers on edge, moments when you draw in a quick and sharp breath as you think you realise what has happened, and that will leave you a little stunned by the potential repercussions of that upon certain characters. But this is very much an ensemble piece – it is neither Anderson nor Costello who solves this case on their own. It takes the combined wits os many characters to get to the real truth and to find is what is suspected is actually true.

I loved the way in which the author develops both characters and landscape. Little of the story takes place in the heart of suburbia, the greatest action taking place in more remote settings which adds to the creeping tension and atmosphere, as well as that overwhelming sense of isolation and danger that feeds the narrative. And there are two characters who really stood out for me – the mysterious DCI Alistair Patrick, a man who is led to a rather grim discovery in a very isolated location and whose stoic, very guarded nature makes him feel as much of a suspect as a potential saviour, and DC Morna Taverner. Morna I really liked if only because of her tenacity. She had a gut feeling about a set of cases and how they may be linked as wasn’t afraid to follow them whether she had the full backing of her Bosses or not. She was a little naive, but I really did like her focus and the fact that she wasn’t prepared to give up until somebody, in this case Anderson, listened.

As I said earlier, I am a plonker. I should have read the earlier book in the series long before now, but it’s something I intend to remedy moving forward. If you are a fan of the series I have absolutely no doubt you will love this book. It has a dark heart, a really atmospheric setting, and the way in which the truth slowly emerges is pretty perfect. It slowly but surely builds to a crescendo, a dramatic showdown that will push readers to the very edge of their seat. Definitely recommended.

About the Author

Caro Ramsay was born and brought up in Glasgow, and now lives in a village on the west coast of Scotland. She is an osteopath, acupuncturist and former marathon runner, who devotes much of her time to the complementary treatment of injured wildlife at a local rescue centre. She is the author of ten Anderson & Costello thrillers.

Author Links: Twitter

4 thoughts on “The Sideman by Caro Ramsay

    1. To be honest I regularly drop into a series part way through. For me if I can do that, understand what is happening and feel the desire to see what I have missed, it’s the sign of a good series and one I’m sure I will enjoy. And it tells me more about the author. Often a writer matures as they release more titles, their style grows and develops. If they are book ten and still feeling like a book one effort, is probably not bother reading any more if that makes sense?

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