Mandie and I have been really lucky as for the past couple of years, at least until Covid struck, we’ve been taking an early summer break up in Northumberland. One of the places we visited, a little off the beaten track as it were, was Chillingham Castle. Knowing how remote it is, how difficult the terrain can be out there, I can’t think of any better setting for Ryan’s Christmas, and LJ Ross has certainly done the reader, and the castle proud. I’ll be resharing my thoughts on the book, just as soon as we’ve taken a look at what it’s all about:
About the Book
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.
It’s probably safe to say that in the list of ‘fIctional characters you would most like to holiday with’ DCI Ryan would probably rank at both the top and bottom of the list. Bottom because wherever he goes trouble is sure to follow – as Frank keenly notes in the book – top because there is no better man to have on your side when trouble strikes. And trouble does strike in this latest offering from LJ Ross, and it’s a real Christmas cracker of a read.
Now I don’t want to say too much about the book as the blurb really does tell you all you need to know. A day trip for Ryan, Ann, Denise and Frank sees them hit by a snowstorm, forced on a detour, stuck with an impromptu overnight stay. So far so good. Well aside from the complete isolation, lack of basic facilities, no phone line and the odd murder. So far so Ryan.
I love this series for the way in which the author manages to take the most beautiful of settings and craft it into a work of magic – a story which has you completely engrossed from the off and featuring characters you love to read about. Although we are (mostly) without Lowerson or Yates this time around, we have the core of the team right here and they are really are firing on all cylinders.
This time around they find themselves in the tiny village of Chillingham, a place that has a handful of houses and a very spooky castle – reputedly the most haunted castle in England. Now I’ve been to Chillingham and it is quite the castle. Small but very perfectly formed, it has everything a castle should have, including a whole host of stories that make up it’s legend. As for the spectral-esquq moo-cows that that team almost run into on their journey … Well, they’re worth the trip out that way alone. Absolutely beautiful and truly wild cattle. Just reading about them made me smile, which is what happens in any book of LJ Ross’s that I read as she really captures the heart and the spirit(s) of the setting perfectly.
The book is a murder mystery with a very finite cast of characters. Each are unique from the retired couple, to the widow and her daughter, to the arrogant businessman and his trophy girlfriend. Each has a story to tell and if you watch and read carefully you will put the mystery together as surely as Ryan and his team will. But being completely cut off from the rest of the world, battling not just the elements but a killer in their midst, adds a layer of tension to the story. Add in a touch of the impossible, a lot of the improbable, and a ghostly seance and you have all the makings of a thoroughly enjoyable Ryan story.
And be prepared for a surprise or two along the way because in spite of the murder, this book will also bring a lot of festive cheer. Ryan fans will love it.
About the Author
LJ Ross is an international bestselling author, best known for creating atmospheric mystery and thriller novels, including the DCI Ryan series of Northumbrian murder mysteries which have sold over four million copies worldwide.
Her debut, Holy Island, was released in January 2015 and reached number one in the Amazon UK and Australian charts. Since then, she has released a further sixteen novels, all of which have been top three global bestsellers and fourteen of which have been UK #1 bestsellers. Louise has garnered an army of loyal readers through her storytelling and, thanks to them, several of her books reached the coveted #1 spot whilst only available to pre-order ahead of release. Her eleventh novel, The Infirmary, is a prequel story and is also available as a major Audible Originals audio-drama starring Tom Bateman, Kevin Whately, Bertie Carvel, Hermione Norris and Alun Armstrong.
Louise was born in Northumberland, England. She studied undergraduate and postgraduate Law at King’s College, University of London and then abroad in Paris and Florence. She spent much of her working life in London, where she was a lawyer for a number of years until 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, where she enjoys reading all manner of books, travelling and spending time with family and friends.
Louise is a keen philanthropist, and is pleased to have supported numerous non-profit programmes in addition to founding several of her own, including the Lindisfarne Reading Challenge and the Lindisfarne Prize for Debut Crime Fiction.