Caro Ramsay's second book - SINGING TO THE DEAD - has a lot to live up to. ABSOLUTION was just a fantastic book, with a particularly brave ending. That ending means SINGING TO THE DEAD starts out looking back to some of that story, and with a need to shift the focus to many of the lesser characters from the first book, as well as introduce new ones.
The disappearance of two seven-year-old boys starts an investigation which finds itself stretched to the limit when a house fire turns into a full-scale murder hunt as well. Then another seven-year-old boy disappears and this time it's the son of DI Colin Anderson.
ABSOLUTION was undoubtedly one of my favourite debut books from last year, so SINGING TO THE DEAD was always going to be interesting reading - particularly as I was keen to see if Ramsay would continue to be as bold as she had been first time around. The start of SINGING TO THE DEAD did seem to be a little unfocused, and there was a rather hefty concentration on the personal aspects of some of the team members - but once a lot of the setup is cleared away, and Ramsay gets down to the core of the investigations the pace picks up markedly.
Ramsay handles the multiple threads of these investigations - and ultimately - the team members really well. She also addresses their reactions to the events at the end of ABSOLUTION well, solidly giving the book a sense of history, without dwelling on the past. I don't think you would have to read the first book to understand events in SINGING TO THE DEAD - it's probably enough to realise that there is history for many of this team and that each of them is reacting to that history in varying ways. The chacterisations are great, the police procedural aspects of the book solid, and there's a real skill to the way that the various threads are interwoven. SINGING TO THE DEAD threw me a little at the start, but I ended up liking this as much as I did the author's first book.