Today I am delighted to (try to) share my thoughts on Penshaw, the brand new DCI Ryan mystery from LJ Ross. The book was released on Saturday but I couldn’t wait to tuck in, putting aside all my planned reading in favour of a day with my favourite Northumbrian Detective team. Before I tell you what I thought, there’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
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?
Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.Available from Amazon UK | Amazon US
With a fantastic cast of characters, a beautiful setting and an undeniable sense of place, it is little wonder that time and time again these books, the DCI Ryan series from LJ Ross, head straight to the top of the charts within mere hours of their release. I was late to the series, but have made up for it since, and each time a new book is released I will ensure that I make time to read it, no matter what. LJ Ross has reintroduced me to a part of the country that I always felt was beautiful, and has made me appreciate all of the wonders it has to hold all over again. Hell, I’ve taken my summer holiday there the last two years on the bounce and will be checking to see if third time really is a charm in 2020. So many things left to see and places yet to explore that I think I could visit every year for a decade and still not complete it all.
This time around the area that Ms Ross draws our attention to is Penshaw, a small village that sits to the west of the Penshaw Monument, around halfway between Washington and Houghton le Spring. Now I have been to Washington more often than I care to remember and whilst I recall having seen it many, many times, I have never really given it much thought. I have now.
The story opens in the midst of the Miners strike in the mid 1980’s, a particularly dark time for the country, especially the heavily affected communities in the North East. Whilst the colliery in this book is fictional, the hate, the fighting and the emotional toil which is depicted in the story is not. This is only a back drop to what is yet to come, but has a heavy impact nonetheless. Whilst I don’t really remember much of that period in history – I was only 9 when the strikes ended, on the verge of becoming an Aunty which was much more exciting to a young girl – many will have lived, and still do live, with the devastation that the pit closures caused.
None more so, it turns out, than the book’s first victim, Alan Watson, long thought to be the man who turned ‘worm’ betraying his village and his friends in the worst possible way. When Alan, and his wife Joan, are caught up in a house fire, DCI Ryan and Frank Phillips are sent to investigate, to determine if the fire was simply an accident or something far more sinister. With Alan having spent his life in hiding, slowing declining with each passing day, could his need to know the truth have been his last mistake, or did his fall from grace and sinking deeper into the bottle prove fatal?
This is a perplexing case for Ryan co, nothing quite as it seems. The Watson family are completely fractured and the author has captured perfectly the differing fortunes of the parents and their children, even the two children themselves, one who turned to drugs, the other to politics. Add into the mix a whole mass of corruption, drug wars, and organised crime, as Ryan also has to head a multi task force operation to bring down a new up and coming crime syndicate, and you are left with a story which is equal parts tension, action and intrigue, one which kept me hooked from beginning to end.
Speaking of ends … Anyone who has read The Moor, book twelve in the series, will remember what a twist the author threw at readers right at the end there. Well … no real spoilers to say that Samantha is back, and as bubbly and bright as ever. Her arrival in Phillips and MacKenzie’s life has thrown them for a loop, leading to certain changes being needed, but it does give a real ray of light to the story and I’m loving seeing her stick about. And as for her unique way of handling the school bullies – love it. And then there is Jack. Jack, Jack Jack! His actions last time around will have repercussions for the whole team, leading to Ryan making some choices that go against everything he stands for, asking others to do things for him that he would never normally ask. You can feel the anguish over those choices, but, as is Ryan, as a reader you are thankful he has Anna to go home to.
I love the way the author has built up this series, creating characters who are believable, relatable, determined but most of all fun. I love Phillips’ humour, Ryan’s stoicism and high sense of morality, also the way in which being with his friends and family, especially Anna, humanises him. Even if they are annoyingly perfect ;). A series which keeps going from strength to strength and I loved it.
About the Author
LJ Ross is the author of the #1 international bestselling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels and her books have sold more than 4 million copies since 2015. She has released 13 full-length novels, nine of which have reached number one in the Amazon UK Kindle best-sellers chart. They are available to purchase in e-book, print and audiobook narration on the Amazon store.
Her eleventh novel, ‘The Infirmary’, is a prequel story which is also available as a major Audible Originals drama starring Tom Bateman, Kevin Whately, Hermione Norris and Alun Armstrong.
Louise was born in Northumberland, England. She studied undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Law at King’s College London and studied abroad in Paris and Florence. She spent much of her working life in London, where she was a regulatory lawyer for a number of years before taking the decision to change career and pursue her dream to write.
Now, she writes full time and lives with her husband and son in Northumberland. She enjoys reading all manner of books, travelling and spending time with family and friends.