Book Review: The Sideman, by Caro Ramsay

Caro Ramsay is the Glaswegian author behind the critically acclaimed Anderson and Costello series. The first book, Absolution, made the shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger for best debut of the year, the ninth, The Suffering Of Strangers, was longlisted for the 2018 McIlvanney Prize, and this tenth book is another must-read.

Caro Ramsay
Caro Ramsay

Featuring Detective Inspector Winifred “Freddie” Costello and her colleague, Detective Chief Inspector Colin Anderon, The Sideman picks up where The Suffering Of Strangers left off – with Costello convinced that George Haggerty is guilty of the murder of his wife and son, despite an ironclad alibi.

The novel opens with a resignation letter from Costello, who feels that insufficient support from the higher-ups in the force resulted in the tragedy that took place in the previous book. Knowing that Haggerty murdered his own wife and son, Costello can’t let him get away with it – and it’s clear that being on the force is only standing in her way.

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Upon beginning her own, independent investigations, however, Costello disappears. Anderson doesn’t have much time to process the absence of his partner of 20 years, meanwhile, as life carries on regardless – between the cases piling up at work and caring for his grandson, Baby Moses, born from a daughter he never knew he had, he barely has a second to breathe.

In the midst of all this, a badly beaten body is found on a remote mountain pass – a woman with a serious head injury who can’t communicate – and a pool of blood is found at the edge of Loch Lomond. Could these be connected to Costello’s disappearance?

Ramsay’s great strength lies is the way she seamlessly interweaves often highly intricate storylines without leaving the reader behind. In order to have a full grasp of what’s happening here, newcomers would do well to read the previous book in the series first, but Ramsay still makes the story accessible to those who haven’t, quickly establishing the main players with a character list at the beginning outlining their occupations and relationships to each other. However you choose to read it, The Sideman’s unrelenting twists will leave you breathless.

The Sideman, by Caro Ramsay, Black Thorn, £8.99