The Devil Stone/Case Sensitive

A pair of recent crime books featuring female detectives.

The Devil Stone by Caro Ramsey

When an entire family are found dead in a seemingly ritualistic fashion in a small town in the Scottish Highlands, DCI Christine Caplan is asked to help out with the investigation. It’s not helping matters that the policeman in charge of the investigation seems to have gone missing.

Caplan is in a difficult place, and is facing a number of issues at home with her family. She’s also run into some serious problems at work, where she’s facing potential demotion. Not helping matters is a strange incident that took place in her personal life when she witnesses what looked like an attack on the street.

So she has plenty going on when she enters the somewhat hostile environment she faces when she reaches the Highland office where she’s investigating. One member of the murdered family is still missing, and the two people who discovered the bodies were themselves trying to break in to steal “The Devil Stone” which the family kept in the house.

Throw into this mix, a deadly new drug that is sweeping Scotland, a strange collective based on a nearby island who could be a cult, and the general unpleasantness Caplan faces in the office, and everything seems to be going against her.

The story unfolds very carefully, and while at first you’re not sure how things are or are not going to connect, the intricate plot strands begin to come together. The protagonist of the book is by no means perfect, and we get to understand that fairly early on. She has her supporters, but she also has those who perhaps are out to get her.

This is the first in a new series of novels featuring Christine Caplan, and I will certainly be returning to them.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC of this title.

Case Sensitive by AK Turner

Case Sensitive is the third in a series of crime novels featuring the mortuary assistant Cassie Raven. It’s the first of the series that I’ve read, but like any good ongoing series of books, the reader is quickly brought up to speed.

Raven lives on a houseboat on a London canal and she’s woken up one morning by the sound of a body in said canal banging against the side of her boat. The unidentified victim at first seems to have had an unfortunate accident – perhaps drunk and taking a pee in the canal. But things get a bit more involved as the case unwinds.

Our mortician also has a complicated personal life. In an earlier book in the series she discovered things about her family that have had a profound impact on her. She’s also got a complex lovelife to unravel. And the dead seem to talk to her – not in a ghostly fashion, more in terms of a sixth sense and in a way that helps her discover what’s actually going on

Over in the nearby police station DS Phyllida Flyte is battling various forms of sexism as she’s given what seems like an open and shut case of the floating body. She’s also got relationship issues – having recently separated from her husband as she tries to face up to the premature death of baby. Plus Flyte’s relationship with Raven is complex and unresolved from previous novels.

The book moves apace, and the London setting is fun and very accurate, with a cosmopolitan bunch of characters which feels very representative of the city in 2023. There is jeopardy, and you’re never entirely sure which way the plot is going to take you. But I enjoyed the book a lot and will get back to earlier titles in the series.