Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Guest Review: Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross

Christmas can be murder…
After a busy year fighting crime, DCI Ryan and his team of murder detectives are enjoying a festive season of goodwill, mulled wine and, in the case of DS Phillips, a stottie cake or two—that is, until a freak snowstorm forces their car off the main road and into the remote heart of Northumberland. Their Christmas spirit is soon tested when they’re forced to find shelter inside England’s most haunted castle, where they’re the uninvited guests at a ‘Candlelit Ghost Hunt’. It’s all fun and games—until one of the guests is murdered. It seems no mortal hand could have committed the crime, so Ryan and Co. must face the spectres living inside the castle walls to uncover the grisly truth, before another ghost joins their number…
Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Review: As a great fan of LJ Ross’s DCI Ryan mysteries, I was excited to see that there was a Christmas mystery for the policeman and his colleagues this year. Since it was published on Christmas Day itself when I was busy with other activities, I didn’t manage to read it all in one go, but devoured it over a couple of days instead. This is book 15 in the DCI Ryan Mysteries series, but is not as long as the other novels in the set. However, although there may be fewer pages, the story lacks nothing in the usual substance and suspense.

As is almost always the case, the action in this story takes place in Northumberland. Ryan is travelling with his wife, Anna, and his work colleagues and friends, DS Phillips and DI MacKenzie, from Scotland towards home when they find themselves stuck in a blizzard, forcing them to take shelter in the nearest place, which happens to be Chillingham Castle. As the snow continues to fall and the wind to howl, the friends find themselves joining a party enjoying a ghost hunt experience in this, the most haunted castle in England. Instead of enjoying a break with the rest of the guests, their expertise is soon required when one of their hosts is murdered. With the weather preventing any help getting through to them, Ryan and his colleagues must try to solve the mystery without the usual backup from the rest of the team.

I thoroughly enjoyed this seasonal mystery story. As usual with books by this author, the writing is skilful and atmospheric. On a personal note, I experienced a certain amount of déjà vu, having driven on the same stretch of the road Ryan was navigating in just the same conditions; didn’t stop at a haunted castle though! This author is great at dropping clues throughout a story, but I never seem to guess the murderer. This time was no different - I thought I had it all tied up, but got it wrong again; really excellent story telling. Although I am very familiar with the recurring characters having read all the other books in the series, and enjoy watching relationships developing amongst them, it is not necessary to have read the previous novels to enjoy this one. I am looking forward to the next DCI Ryan mystery, promised for next year.


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