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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Angel by LJ Ross DCI Ryan #4

The fourth book in the DCI Ryan series, Angel is a page-turner.
Life is slImage result for High Force L J Rossowly returning to a semblance of normality for Ryan and his fiancé, Anna, and wedding plans are being made, that is until the body of a young woman is found. Not only is she partially-buried in a grave intended for someone else, but she’s been positioned to look like an angel. When more bodies start turning up, some in the angelic pose and others not, Ryan and Phillips realize they have a different sort of religious killer on the loose – a religious killer who doesn’t care who their victim is as long as she has red hair, pale skin and is of a certain age, very much like the love of Phillip’s life, Detective Inspector Denise McKenzie….

While I had my doubts about this series to start with, I confess, the characters have really grown on me. Ross has developed Ryan, Anna, Philips, Denise and Jack to the point you feel invested in them and care deeply when they’re threatened, which is what makes this book so very appealing. Not only that, but the plot moves at a fast pace, the killer remaining a step ahead all the time.

There are still some clichés that can grind a tad, but some are simply part of the generic conventions of crime narratives and can be forgiven, especially when other aspects of the writing are so very good. The ending is a doozy as well and had me buying and starting the next in the series immediately.

Good start to the new year reading!

 

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The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza

29073628Having recently read the first book in the DCI Erica Foster series, The Girl in the Ice, I was very much looking forward to reading The Night Stalker, by Robert Bryndza, and I wasn’t disappointed. Whereas the events in the first novel took place in the cold of winter, the ones portrayed in this instalment take place against a steaming London summer, which for some reason ratchets up the tension as normally closed doors and windows are left ajar to admit any cool air circulating – only, for some people and houses, it’s not just a breeze they allow to enter.

Summoned to the death of a doctor, who is found tied to his bed and with a plastic bag over his head, Erica can find no motive for his grisly death except perhaps the vague link of a gay hate crime which some of those at the station appear eager to claim. However, when a second body is found days later, killed in an identical fashion, she knows not only is a dangerous individual at large, but whoever it is, he or she is stalking the victims, waiting for the right moment to strike…Erica and her team must uncover the perpetrator before more people die.

With the anniversary of her husband, Mark’s death looming, and her personal and professional relationships and reputation suffering, Erica lets her defences down. She not only has a close encounter with the stalker, but also places herself and her friends in grave danger. But it’s when her old nemesis reappears and threatens to curb Erica’s instincts before calling her judgement to account, that she’s forced to take a perilous path.

From the first page, the novel launches straight into the action and allows the reader, once again, to follow the perspectives of both the killer and law enforcement, the gap between the two closing as the case gains momentum. My only criticism of this novel, and it was the same for the one before, is that Erica not only tends to repeat social and work-related mistakes that see her hauled over the coals, sometimes without justification, but in both books she appears to be unjustly punished and in an identical fashion. When it happened again in this novel, it was hard to suspend disbelief.

Still, this is a very well-written book with great characters, and a mostly tight plot. It’s hard not to champion Erica and want to see her succeed; there is something real, vulnerable and compelling about her. She is loyal to a fault and if she is sometimes myopic when it comes to her work, it’s only because she cares about what she does and feels she has to somehow compensate for past critical errors. I hope the direction the books seem to be taking indicate better outcomes for this strong female character – professionally and personally.

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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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