Borderlands by LJ Ross

11th June 2020.  3.5 stars.

You’re always guaranteed and entertaining and enjoyable crime story from LJ Ross and the fourteenth books in the DCI Ryan series is no exception. This time Ryan and his team are split across two separate investigations.

The first is a malevolent serial killer who likes to imprison his prey before releasing and hunting them down in a remote part of the Northumbria National Park. The second investigation concerns a terrorist cell intent of disruption and destruction in pursuit of their goals.

While all the author’s hallmarks are here – the humour and banter between Ryan and Phillips, the close relationships between team members, and the carefully crafted storylines – splitting the team diluted the suspense and excitement. Both investigations were carried out with cool efficiency and had no real obstacles or complications to crank up the tension.

The book was a quick read and seemed shorter than usual, maybe due to the abrupt ending, which caught me off guard. That said, it remains a well-written and entertaining read that evoked a range of emotions and kept me turning the pages.

Description

After uncovering a fresh wave of corruption within the ranks of Northumbria CID, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan was looking forward to an uneventful summer. But, when a young woman is shot dead on the remote army ranges of the Northumberland National Park, Ryan is called in to investigate.

Meanwhile, violent crimes are being committed across sites of historic importance in the North East, the perpetrator leaving only a graffitied symbol as their calling card. As the body count rises, Ryan and his team must unravel the mystery behind its meaning – before it’s too late…

Borderlands by LJ Ross

Penshaw by L J Ross

10th April 2020.   5 stars.

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of the DCI Ryan series from Holy Island through to Penshaw, which is one of the best. It’s rooted in the miners’ strike of 1985, which cast a shadow over many communities. Move forward to the present and the death of a former union activist in a fire. Was it an accident or murder? When the activist’s son also dies, DCI Ryan’s suspicions are confirmed.

But these deaths are almost a distraction for Ryan, who’s leading a task force to combat organised crime in the north east. His main target is Bobby Singh, who seems to have enlisted a few police officers to help him stay one step ahead of the law. Ryan’s also tasked with rooting them out, but soon discovers the problem is closer to home than he would like.

These strands are woven together in a fast-paced and intriguing story that gripped me from the first page to the last. There are touching moments, heroic moments and everything in between. You can’t help but care for the characters and the challenges they face.

Everything that is good about the series is here – the characters, their relationships and camaraderie, the humour and an occasional touch of romance. The stories are easy to read, entertaining and filled with intrigue and great settings.

If you haven’t started from the beginning, you’re missing out on so many character developments and the intimate knowledge that only comes from following a series. While this is the thirteenth book in the series, the writing is still fresh, exciting and entertaining.

LJ Ross is an author at the top of her game and I can’t recommend her novels enough.

Description

When you sell your soul, the devil gives no refunds…

When an old man is burned alive in a sleepy ex-mining village, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is called in to investigate. He soon discovers that, beneath the facade of a close-knit community, the burn from decades-old betrayal still smoulders. When everyone had a motive, can he unravel the secrets of the past before the killer strikes again?

Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, trouble is brewing with rumours of a mole in Ryan’s department. With everyone under suspicion, can he count on anybody but himself?

Penshaw by LJ Ross

Interview on Fictionophile

My thanks to Lynne LeGrow for some interesting and entertaining questions.

‘There’s nothing better than knowing others enjoy the story you wrote. That’s why I write.’

Read the full interview here.

 

Reviews from the No Remorse blog tour

Check out the reviews and guest posts from the No Remorse blog tour, 7th to 18th May, 2018.

Dear BBC, please make these into a top quality drama – Booksaremycwtches

This book is a brilliant read – Black Books Blog

A light hearted and entertaining mystery with deaths and danger aplenty –  My Reading Corner

Guest post on LJ Ross, Author Introductions

An engrossing puzzle with some intriguing twists and a real sense of danger – Hair Past a Freckle

Enough intrigue to keep you hooked from start to finishNovel Deelights.

The characters were really great – Donnasbookblog

Kept me guessing until the endKatiesbookcavereviews

Guest post at Love Books Group

A great sense of tension, suspense and drama. Highly Recommended – Me and My Books

An addictive read which you will find hard to put downA Lover of Books.

This one is the best so farIgnite Books.

A strong plotted book that kept me turning those pages – Orchard Book Club

The Moor by LJ Ross

6th August 2019.  5 stars.

LJ Ross has delivered another terrific and highly entertaining episode in the DCI Ryan series. This time it’s a cold case investigation, triggered by the memories of a 10 year old girl, Samantha, who’s the daughter of the ringmaster of the circus that’s just pulled into town.

Samantha turns out to be a delightful character and rather a handful as the team battles social services, the closed community of the circus, and their own emotions as they investigate the murder of her mother.

It’s a fast-paced tale where the layers of silence are peeled back to reveal secrets, animosities and motives for murder. As Ryan moves closer to the truth, the stakes increase and the risk to Samantha grows, leading to a thrilling finale and some emotionally charged moments.

The Moor has everything you could wish for in a crime story – lovable characters you root for, a twisting plot with enough suspects to keep you guessing, and a humanity that underpins the main characters and the job they do.

With some unfinished business from a parallel investigation, I’m looking forward to where the next story will take one of my favourite crime teams.

Highly recommended and one of the best crime series I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Description

The circus is in town…

When a ten-year-old girl turns up on DCI Ryan’s doorstep to tell him she’s witnessed a murder, he has no idea he’s about to step into his most spellbinding case yet. The circus has rolled into Newcastle upon Tyne, bringing with it a troupe of daring acrobats, magicians, jugglers—and one of them is a killer.

Ryan and his team must break through their closed ranks to uncover a secret which has lain buried for eight years, before the killer strikes again – this time, to silence the only living witness…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

The Moor

Longstone by LJ Ross

22nd April 2019 – 4 stars.

I’m glad the team were back in Northumbria for this murder investigation involving a Viking shipwreck that costs Iain Tucker his life.

In steps DCI Ryan to investigate and uncover the secrets and lies in the close-knit community of Seahouses. While he’s hardly had time to acquaint himself with events, there’s another murder and it’s time to bring in his team.

While the story started slowly, focusing on some family relationships and the main characters in the village, it picked up pace to finish with a well-described and exciting climax on the sea. The information and detail concerning shipwrecks and their exploration was interesting and added realism and credibility to the unusual but compelling plot.

There seemed to be a lot more banter and humour between the main characters, which I found a little distracting at times, but otherwise an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Description

Between the devil and the deep blue sea…

Viking treasure is discovered beneath the icy waters of the North Sea and local historian Doctor Anna Taylor is called in to help catalogue the most exciting hoard in living memory. But when a shipwreck diver washes up dead, she’s soon out of her depth. Luckily, she knows just the person to call…

When DCI Ryan arrives at the picturesque fishing town of Seahouses, he’s faced with an impenetrable wall of secrets and lies. As he juggles marine archaeology and the cutthroat world of shipwreck diving, another murder blows the case wide open. To uncover the truth, Ryan must delve deeper into the hearts of those around him to find what lies beneath…

Longstone

Are your novels cosy mysteries?

When a reader first asked me this question, images of Miss Marple and tearooms in quaint country villages sprang into my head.

That’s okay, I thought, because I love Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. They’re one of the reasons I write traditional whodunit mysteries. When bestselling author, Tamara McKinley suggested that Agatha Christie fans would love my first novel, No Accident, I was delighted.

But I never envisaged the Kent Fisher mysteries as cosy. They deal with modern, serious issues that don’t feel cosy.

To settle any doubt, I turned to Google.

A quick check suggested cosies were crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in small, socially intimate communities. The person solving the crime is an amateur, usually but not exclusively a woman, with contacts in the police or other law enforcement agencies.

Well, that got me thinking. There’s no graphic sex in the Kent Fisher mysteries because I believe a reader’s imagination can do a much better job. Any violence is usually confrontational and targeted at Kent to stop him solving a case. The communities are not socially intimate, though most of the action takes place in the small towns and villages of the South Downs. Kent’s an amateur detective, sure, but as an environmental health officer, he’s a law enforcer and often works with the police, giving him certain detection skills.

His best friend is a retired Scenes of Crime Officer.

On balance, it looks like my novels fall into the cosy category.

As Kinsey Millhone, Morse and Miss Marple inspired and influenced me, why did I ever doubt this? After all, my goal has always been to entertain readers with absorbing, complex mysteries, engaging characters with their own stories and troubles, all laced with a healthy dash of irreverent humour.

I prefer to think of the Kent Fisher mysteries as the cosy end of the crime fiction spectrum, like LJ Ross or Dick Francis.

My favourite crime novels of 2018

21st December 2018

It may be the shortest day of the year, but here at Crouch Corner, there’s a long list of crime novels to wade through if I’m to select my favourites of the year.

Without doubt, crime’s the most diverse genre and possibly the best-selling. You can read everything from little old ladies solving murders between cream teas to full blown serial killer thrillers that leave little to the imagination. We’re all interested and intrigued by murder, and many readers like to solve the mystery before they reach the solution.

I started over 50 crime novels this year, though some of them fell by the wayside and didn’t capture my interest. I finished reading 42 and enjoyed most of them. This included a number of existing favourites and many new authors, who I read for the first time.

I’ve reviewed all of the novels mentioned here, along with many more that didn’t make this post. I think of it as a way of saying thank you to the authors for entertaining me, and I hope it helps others to discover some of the great novels out there.

All my review are posted on my website and can be viewed by clicking here.

If you’ve any favourite crimes novels for 2018, please comment below and tell me about them.

Series characters

Like many readers, I love a good series, and they don’t come much better than Peter James and his hero, Roy Grace, who fights crime in Brighton and Hove, just along the East Sussex coast from me. As well as beautifully crafted plots, the author provides a detailed insight into the way the police work and operate, including the issues they face with public spending cuts, the media, and senior management. This gives the stories a credible and authentic feel that makes them come alive.

Not Dead Enough

I’ve only read the first eight novels in the series, but the one that gave me the most pleasure, was the third, Not Dead Enough, which finished with a series of exquisite twists.

The DCI Ryan series by LJ Ross, set in Northumberland, has become a firm favourite since the first in the series, Holy Island, based in Lindisfarne. The author’s easy style and cast of likable characters, facing internal and external threats, some of them personal, make for entertaining reading.

While every novel is terrific, my favourite is High Force, which deals with a personal vendetta that cranks up the tension to an almost unbearable level before the finale, which gives more than a passing nod to Sherlock Holmes.

High Force

Finally, my other favourite series this year involves DS Kay Hunter, created by Rachel Amphlett. Set in and around Maidstone in Kent, these novels have a straightforward, no-nonsense style and another team of likable detectives, who fight for each other as much as they fight criminals. There is also a personal element to many of the stories to add to the tension.

Hell to Pay was my favourite as Kay Hunter finally discovers who’s trying to destroy her career and why.

Hell to Pay

New authors

One of the joys of reading is discovering new authors and books that hit all the right spots. Sometimes, they come by recommendation from other readers. Sometimes a publisher offers a book for a reduced price or for free to tempt new readers. Whatever the reason, I’ve broadened my choices in 2018 and these are my favourites.

Michael Wood

His books feature DCI Matilda Darke, a detective returning to work after sickness caused by stress. In For Reasons Unknown, as well as proving she’s physically and emotionally fit to return to work, she has competition, no guarantee of getting her old job back, and a cold case that bites back. Her personal battles add that extra layer of tension and engagement to lift the story.

For Reasons Unknown

Outside Looking In continues Darke’s return to her old job. But with a vendetta threatening to derail her recovery, the tension builds to a superb climax that kept me reading well into the afternoon to reach the climax.

Harlan Coben

A friend of mine commented on Facebook about Caught, describing Coben as a favourite author. I took a quick look on Amazon and loved his distinctive voice and style of writing. The story drew me in effortlessly with a TV sting snaring a child abuser. Only it was never going to be that simple. And the complications and twists kept coming, leaving me quite drained by the end.

I’ll definitely be reading more Harlan Coben in 2019.

Harlan Coben Caught

Cheryl Bradshaw

Another American author with a voice and style I immediately connected with. While it’s always best to start a series with the first book, I began with Hush Now Baby, the sixth in the Sloane Monroe private detective series. I loved the characters, plot and tone of the book, which was reminiscent of a grittier Kinsey Millhone.

Hush Now Baby

A special thank you to Sue Grafton

My reading year was tinged with sadness when Sue Grafton died. The creator of Kinsey Millhone had completed 25 novels featuring her wonderful private eye. While Y is for Yesterday wasn’t the best of the novels, in my opinion, it was a fitting end and tribute to a wonderful author, who inspired me to create Kent Fisher and write my own crime novels.

Y is for Yesterday

I also revisited A is for Alibi, this year and loved it as much as the first time I read it back in the late 1980s.

That only leaves me to tell you my favourite crime novel of 2108.

It wasn’t an easy choice by any means, and there were quite a few contenders, but the decision was based on my emotional reaction when I finished the book.

You should always feel sadness when you reach the end. For hours, days, maybe weeks, you’ve lived with the characters, following them through the twists and turns as they battle to overcome the challenges that face them. Now it’s over, but the book lives on in your memory. You think about it, relive some of the moments and reflect on a story that moved you, maybe even changed the way you look at life.

That’s the mark of a great book and the crime novel that moved me more than any other this year was Outside Looking In, by Michael Wood. I think it was Matilda Darke’s determination to face her demons and battle through that left the biggest impression.

If you haven’t read this series, give it a go.

And my overall favourite book for 2018

Outside Looking In

Well, that’s almost it for 2018, a year that gave me lots of reading pleasure. I hope to read more crime novels from my favourite authors and discover a few more new to me. I already have quite a few loaded onto my Kindle.

Next week, I may well reflect on 2018, when I published my third and favourite Kent Fisher mystery, No Remorse. It could also be a good time to share my hopes for 2019.


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Seven Bridges by LJ Ross

21st November 2018 – 4/5 stars

Once again, the author delivers another terrific story, filled with tension, suspense and superlative writing as someone starts blowing up the bridges over the River Tyne. Is it a terrorist, trying to bring Newcastle to a standstill, or is there a more sinister mind at work?

LJ Ross captured the horror, disbelief and fear of a city, dealing with the aftermath of a bomb and the threat of a second unless a ransom is paid. At times, I couldn’t put the book down, deeply affected by the quality of the writing and the very real reactions of the public and police.

DCI Ryan was his usual impeccable self, taking everything in his stride, even with the distraction of a fellow officer and friend under arrest for murdering Detective Superintendent Jennifer Lucas. Even as the minutes ticked away, with the threat of another explosion imminent, you knew he would battle through and find the bomber.

I had to suspend disbelief as the story sped to a rapid resolution that felt a little rushed somehow. Maybe that accounted for a couple of small slips in procedure, which is unusual. I also found the plot far-fetched, which took the edge of my enjoyment, even though Seven Bridges was original and well written.

Everything else about the story was as good as I’ve come to expect from LJ Ross. Her characters and the camaraderie they share may seem a little too good to be true in these troubled times, but there’s enough negative press, violence and nastiness every night on the news.

Reading should be an escape into a magical world with characters you care about and every book in the series scores highly in this respect.

Description

It’s been five months since a killer walked free and DCI Ryan is preparing to leave Newcastle to hunt him down – this time, for good.

But Ryan’s plans are scuppered when events take a dramatic turn and he is forced to stay and face his past one last time, or watch a friend suffer the consequences.

Amid the chaos, another killer is preparing to strike. When the Tyne Bridge explodes, Ryan’s team are faced with a frantic race to uncover a deadly foe who won’t stop until every bridge is burned, along with everybody on it…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Seven Bridges

Dark Skies by LJ Ross

5th October 2018 – 4/5 stars

After Cragside’s detour into the whodunit, it’s good to be back into the more familiar police procedural format. This time a murder from thirty years ago leads to more killings in the present day and another serial killer on the loose.

Ryan has the added challenge of a new boss, Detective Superintendent Lucas, who arrives with unfinished business and a score to settle. She starts by dividing and conquering, splitting up the team, befriending the weakest member, while chaining Ryan to his desk to do more ‘management’.

Because Lucas is so obsessive, with only a few hints about what caused the rift with Ryan, she felt a little predictable and wooden. Her battle with Ryan also contributed to an ending I understood, but found frustrating.

But it won’t stop me reading the next novel to find out how the various threads of the story develop. My quibbles are minor for a story that’s well-written and crafted, entertaining, filled with engaging and charismatic characters, and loaded with tension, suspense and welcome doses of humour.

Description

Beware what lies beneath…

One fateful, starry night, three friends embark on a secret camping trip but only two return home. Thirty years later, the body of a teenage boy rises from the depths of England’s biggest reservoir and threatens to expose a killer who has lain dormant…until now.

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan returns from honeymoon to face danger from all sides. In the depths of Kielder Forest, a murderer has escaped justice before and will do anything to protect the secrets of the past. Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, an old foe has taken the helm as Superintendent and is determined to destroy Ryan at any cost.

Who will prevail in Ryan’s most dangerous case yet?

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Dark Skies