Dark Skies, DCI Ryan #& LJ Ross

This is the last instalment in the DCI Ryan series currently available (at the end we’re told to expect the next oImage result for Dark Skies L J Rossne early 2018). In this novel, DCI Ryan investigates the case of a body at the bottom of a reservoir. Found by a tourist doing a diving course, its discovery is timed with arrival of Ryan’s wife, Anna, and a mini-bus-load of her masters’ students engaged in a history study of the region. Since the body has been there at least 30 years and this appears to be a cold case, Ryan reassures Anna it’s OK to continue with her history trip. Only, when more bodies start turning up, both Ryan and Anna come to deeply regret their initial decision she remain.

To make matters worse, Ryan’s new boss who is also an old, unstable and manipulative flame, is making her presence felt, driving wedges in both friendships and professional practice. Not only does Ryan have an unhinged killer to deal with, but a woman scorned and Shakespeare warned us what they are like.

The book is tightly plotted and paced and hard to put down and I did really enjoy it. However, I am a little concerned that once again, there’s a rotten cop in the shop determined to bring Ryan and what he’s built down, and though The Hacker has gone, it’s like a carbon copy of him has been resurrected. More caricature than believable, I am very interested to see if he will be fleshed out and become the threat Ross clearly intends. Likewise, with Ryan’s boss, whose motives and actions seem so transparent, it’s ridiculous he and his friends appear to be the only ones to see it!

Still, it’s testimony to Ross’ prose and how much you come to care for the main characters that you simply have to have resolution and keep turning the pages. The repetitions could also be regarded as clever narrative devices, and I will reserve judgment to see where these two antagonists take the tale.

The descriptions of the area the crimes occur in are delightful and there’s no doubt, landscape becomes as much a character in this book. I would have liked to have more character to the villains and less reliance on repetition, but that’s just me. I like shades of grey instead of black and white, clear cut “goodies” and “baddies.” But I do enjoy this series and hope it’s not long before the next book appears.

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The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

28233082The Girl in the Ice is the first crime novel for Robert Bryndza, an author better known for his frothy romantic comedies and it’s a doozy. Opening with the gruesome murder of a young, privileged and rich society girl, a murder that will form the focus of the rest of the narrative, the novel takes off at a cracking pace that doesn’t relent until the past page.

Detective Chief Inspector, Erica Foster, transferred from Manchester to London after some kind of recuperative period, hits the ground of her new job sprinting. She not only has to try and solve a high-society crime with very few leads, but deal with the hostility of some of her colleagues and interference and direction from the powers that be as well. Furthermore, there is a terrible recent tragedy in her past, and the demons memories of this conjure almost highjack Foster’s return to work, making her job even more difficult.

When Foster and her team start to realise that the killer they’re trying to catch has struck before and will again, catching the murderer becomes a race against the clock and more personal than Foster and the force are prepared for.

From the very first page, the story grabs you by the collar and drags you along at a furious speed. It also doesn’t steer away from gruesome (but you never feel gratuitous) detail – murder, after all, is a grisly, horrid event that affects everyone involved. Foster, who arrives carrying more baggage than Heathrow, while arcing people’s backs up initially, quickly wins over the reader and the more reasoned of her colleagues with her work ethic, intelligence and warmth. The suffering she also experiences, the grief that tries to break her, also endears you to her as she does everything possible not to let this impact on her professionalism. As a character, she is both remarkably strong and yet possessed of a vulnerability that gives her depth and complexity and places you firmly on her side at all times.

Saying this, however, there were two very small things that bothered me with the novel: the first was that Foster repeatedly argues with her superiors and does some really ballsy things in order to get her own way (which does and doesn’t work). Smart and clearly able to negotiate the complexity of egos in the force, I wondered about her repeating some of her behaviours when she was initially punished for them (even though those doing the punishing were clearly stupid and ill-informed). Narratively convenient, the repetition didn’t ring true for such a steadfast and competent character.

The other small bugbear I have is that there are a few chapters told from the point of view of the killer who is denoted as “the figure”. I am not persuaded these added anything to an already tight plot and pace… on the contrary, they detracted in my humble opinion and deleting them would have made no difference to the story.

Overall, this was a terrific, fast-paced read that gives crime fans another rich and interesting cop to love, ache for and champion through the few highs and terrible lows of solving crimes. Can’t wait for the next one, which I have already ordered!


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Book Review: Police by Jo Nesbo

ThisPolice: A Harry Hole Novel is such a hard book to review because even the smallest detail about the content – the way the story unfolds (which can be very persuasive in a review) – runs the risk of spoiling what is an absolute cracker of an addition to the Harry Hole canon. All I can say is that the narrative didn’t begin as I anticipated at all, even though it follows on from the events in the last book, The Leopard, and it’s this defying of expectations that sets the standard and pace for the rest of the tale. As Police opens, we’re back in Oslo, there are grisly murders a-plenty only, this time, the stakes are even higher as it’s members of the force that are being killed. Not only that, but their deaths are a brutal reenactment of cold cases – cases that the new victims were once assigned to solve. As the body count grows, so does the pressure and the fear – who will be next and why?

Never has the act of reading been so analogous to riding a roller coaster as you are lifted to great heights before being flung into complete, heart-stopping despair; there are twists and turns, false corners and such sharply angled ones, you sustain the equivalent of literary whiplash reading this book.

What is also evident from the moment the story starts, is that you’re in the hands of a master. There’s a sense in which, as gruesome as this bloody tale of revenge and thwarted intentions is, Nesbo is having fun with the reader… He is playing mind games with us and they damn well work. Persuading us into one way of thinking only to reveal another, Police, perhaps more than any other of the Hole books, allows us to identify with the investigation, gives us access to the minds and feelings of the frustrated investigators as we share their experiences, concerns and suspicions. Nesbo not only leads us up one garden path, that he has cobbled, bordered with plants, lit brightly or plunged into darkness, strewing it with characters we expect to find and those we do not, he then strands us in the middle of what we quickly understand isn’t a path, it’s a labyrinth. A psychological, emotional and physical one that familiar characters and new ones inhabit with varying degrees of comfort and control. There is never a dull moment in this tale, nor is there an opportunity to catch your breath. Not for the faint-hearted, this latest (and I hope not final as has been rumored) addition to the Hole series is simply brilliant.

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