Holy Island: A DCI Ryan Mystery by L J Ross
|Holy Island: A DCI Ryan Mystery by L J Ross|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A nasty ritualistic murder at a British tourist site and a first outing for Detective Chief Inspector Ryan add up to an excellent, one-sitting gobbler of a murder mystery.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 372||Date: July 2015|
|Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
|External links: Author's website|
DCI Ryan has decided the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland is the ideal place for him to wait out his three months' sabbatical from the police. Sea air, peace and quiet... The sort of peace and quiet that evaporates when Lucy, a young islander, is found murdered, her body curiously arranged at the Priory ruins. Ryan volunteers to lead the investigation, enlisting the assistance of Dr Anna Taylor, expert on ancient religious practices. She'll be helpful but something gradually dawns on Ryan that isn't going to help at all: the murderer must be an island resident. Not something that will endear Ryan to the locals!
British writer L J Ross comes from the northeast of England and now lives in the south. Northumberland isn't the sort of place one forgets though. I speak from experience so I understand why the county still occupies her heart. Mind you, if this thriller is the result, it's an occupation that's to be encouraged.
Despite this being Ryan's first outing, it doesn't read as if it is because this is a man with a backstory of intrigue. Why is he on a sabbatical which seems a little less than voluntarily taken? What went wrong? By the end of the novel we understand more about this public school educated, multi-named, gruff bloke who chooses to be known by the last half of his surname. If you're like me, you'll also have a soft spot for him.
To answer your unspoken question, yes, Anna is a bit of a love interest (we guess that pretty early on) but the lass has a brain and opinions that she's not averse to displaying so she's no plot dolly.
In a way the story can be summed up under one word: demons. The separate personal demons of Ryan and new associate Dr Taylor as well as the demonic heart (in the everyday sense rather than the fantasy fiction definition) that turns Lindisfarne into a windswept, John-Nettles-less version of Midsomer, but in a more compelling way.
Lindisfarne is a great place to set a murder thriller as it has an ethereal feeling to it anyway, fostered by a history-load of saints and inherited Celtic legend. Therefore adding pagan undertones to its more modern religious existence is a master stroke of imagination. (Unless LJ knows something we don't!) Also it's a closed community at certain times of the day and night, being cut off totally from the mainland by tides. This means a murderer in their midst creates a population who had always thought they knew everyone but now live in fear and suspicion.
From the start I knew a someone that it wasn't, but the final denouement as to who it was a bit of a surprise to some extent. We reach the end via some rather satisfying twists and a feeling of mild – and temporary - smugness. Smugness? Yes, I sort of guessed how the end would come about but not who. Yet even half-guessing the scenario obviously didn't spoil it for me as I hungrily absorbed the novel in one un-put-downable sitting.
LJ has a cure for reader smugness though; after the ending, there's an epilogue with left field shock that will ensure our finger nails are still being chewed while we wait to get our hands on the sequel. Indeed, the next DCI Ryan adventure, Sycamore Gap, takes us to Hadrian's Wall but we're given a strong feeling that Lindisfarne hasn't finished with Ryan yet.
(A huge thank you to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals then we just as heartily recommend Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham.
Holy Island: A DCI Ryan Mystery by L J Ross is in the Top Ten Self-Published Books 2015.
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Did not know I had won your competition until the book arrived in today’s post.
Thank you very much,.