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Author of the Month

Name: Caro Ramsay

First Novel: Absolution

Most Recent Book: The Night Hunter

'Loved, loved, loved this book.'

Synopsis:
Elvie McCulloch’s sister Sophie goes missing after heading out for a run. Several young women in the area have disappeared in similar circumstances and Elvie’s family fears the worst.

As Elvie is driving to her new job late at night, the naked, emaciated body of a young woman crashes from the cliff above on to an oncoming car and Elvie recognises her as Lorna Lennox, who has also been missing for weeks.

Teaming up with retired detective Billy Hopkirk, who has been retained by the mother of one of the missing girls to find her daughter, Elvie is determined to find out the truth, but, as the pair alternately collaborate with and infuriate the official investigating team of Anderson and Costello, they find themselves up against a terrifying enemy - someone who has killed before. Someone who preys on young women. Someone they call ‘The Night Hunter’.

Review:
Magic. Pure magic. Loved, loved, loved this book.

Elvie McCulloch, along with Billy Hopkirk will surely be the two most unlikely heroes of a crime novel you will come across, and two of the most fascinating. Beautifully and convincingly drawn, they pull you through a plot that will have you guessing right up to the last page.

Ramsay has proven herself to be a brave writer in the past and yet again she takes risk: by not putting her known detectives front and centre and instead using the unlikely pairing I’ve just described. But she’s a writer at the top of her game and gets you onside from the off.

The action moves between Glasgow and Argyllshire: in particular the wonderfully atmospheric area around surely the best-named road in the country – the Rest and Be Thankful.

The author serves up a feast of characters and a fascinating family dynamic along with a worryingly claustrophobic feel and a twist of that famous Ramsay humour. Then there’s the water clock, which must be the most ingenuous and multi-purpose time-piece you’ll come across in fiction. But I’m saying too much. Get the book already!

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) What first compelled you to write crime fiction?
Basically I have a nasty, devious mind but I never had any great ambition to become a crime writer I literally fell into it by accident. Lying in hospital for months with a broken back focusses the mind on dark deeds.
2) In ‘The Night Hunter’, you have taken the unusual step of not putting your series characters front and centre. Why did you choose to tell the story through Elvie’s eyes?
If I’m honest it was Elvie’s choice to tell the story through her eyes. I had a few false starts with the book until I realised that Elvie just wanted to tell her own story so as soon as we got that sorted out the book almost wrote itself.
3) Did writing this way cause you any problems or did it give you a greater freedom to depict Anderson and Costello without having them look in a mirror or being introspective?
It would give me a good opportunity to be quite nasty about them and Elvie get the blame rather than me, the writer. I’ve read that writing first person, present tense is very difficult but while it is restricting the fact is that it forces you to focus. Removing all choices of viewpoint means that you just have to make that work.
4) The dynamics of Elvie’s family are especially interesting considering everything they’ve been and indeed, go through. How did you set about creating the family?
Again I have to confess that the family just wrote themselves. It’s only when I look back or when someone asks me that question do I stop and think why did I do that? I think the answer is in some ways I gave them everything with my conscious mind while my unconscious took everything they had away from them. In many ways, they are the perfect family but in reality they have a nightmare existence.
5) The water clocks are a brilliant touch. Where did the inspiration for using them come from?
Half the inspiration for that came from a model of perpetual motion that is outside some art gallery in France. The other half came from a conversation with Jim Kelly who has a book that features small water clocks. The technical term is clepsydra (water thief), and that is an intriguing concept in itself.

I found out about the POW tunnels that run across Argyll when doing research for something completely different and they stuck in my mind, so nothing is ever wasted.
6) When you are writing, do you plot in advance or just go with the flow to see what happens?
I plot very vaguely and I do know exactly how it is going to end but the means of getting there will change quite a lot. I wish I was more organised in plotting as it would save me a lot of work but I just have to accept the fact I am a more organic writer. I do like adding another layer, then another layer until my editor wrestles it from me saying ‘Enough Ramsay!’
7) I found all of your characters to be fascinating, especially Billy Hopkirk, who I imagine you thoroughly enjoyed writing about. Which of all your characters was the most fun to write and why?
I probably have to agree with you, Billy is the one that captures the imagination of the public, the smelly politically incorrect old coffin dodger that he is. I suspect that everybody knows a Billy… some of us are most likely related to one!
8) Despite being a very dark novel, ‘The Night Hunter’ is littered with wry observations from Elvie. How important do you think it is to balance darkness with humour?
Very important. As well as the bigger picture that nobody wants to read a novel of unrelenting gloom, I think it’s true and a universally acknowledged truth that people with difficult jobs have the weirdest sense of humour and in some ways I like to reflect that.
9) What are you currently working on now?
Book six. It has to be delivered by the 31st of October. Still fighting with myself over the title. I’m not sure who will win.
10) Which three crime fiction books have left a lasting impression on you?
Agatha Christie’s, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ first and foremost.

I’d probably say anything by Desmond Bagley because I read them at a very young age but I can’t think of anything else at the moment because my head is so mangled with book six. Can I get away with that as an answer?

However, I was telling my patient about Michael Malone’s brilliant novel, ‘A Taste For Malice’ yesterday as she was a) looking for something good to read and b) had seen his thighs on Facebook!