Sycamore Gap by LJ Ross

Sycamore Gap, the second book in the DCI Ryan Mysteries, takes place about six months after the events in Holy Island. Ryan and Dr Anna are all but living together in Durham when Ryan is called to Hadrian’s Wall where a body has been found stuffed in cavity. Just as the police discover the body is only a decade old and not, as the ambitious archaeologist hanging around the site hopes, ancient, another much fresher body turns up in the same place – a body with ritualistic markings similar to those who were murdered on Lindisfarne months ago.

Once more, past and present collide for Ryan, his side-kick Phillips, and Anna as they work to uncover the killer or killers and seek connections to the brutal, sadistic Circle who caused so much havoc on Lindisfarne.

But it’s when Ryan is forced to confront his sister’s killer that events take an even more sinister turn. There are those involved who have professions and stellar careers to protect and, if they’re at risk, then what have they got to lose, especially when there are more victims to claim?

Fast-paced, the book nonetheless manages to delve slightly deeper into Ryan and Dr Anna’s relationship as well as the professional ones of Ryan, Phillips and their colleagues – as well as the case that almost broke Ryan. The dreaded Circle and its members are also fleshed out, though I confess there were times I found my disbelief stretched almost to breaking point.

While the Mills and Boonish air of the first book has, thankfully, dissipated in this one, there is still the sense that everyone is so bloody beautiful, they’ve been cast by a US modelling firm. Only some of the villains seem to bear any ordinariness in their physical characteristics… I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it did. LOL!

Still, I really enjoyed the book and Ross knows how to keep a reader turning the pages. Have already bought book three and look forward to losing myself in it.

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Last Rituals by Ysra Sigurdardottir

Continuing my love affair with Nordic Noir, I picked up this book, Last Rituals, by an author I hadn’t yet read, Ysra Sigurdardottir. Commencing with a suitably grisly discovery, when a young German student’s body is found on a university campus, sans eyes and with eerie markings inscribed on his body, the reader is introduced to Thora Gudmundsdottir, a lawyer who is hired by the family of the young man to investigate his death. While a suspect has been placed in custody, the family don’t believe he’s the culprit. Teaming up with a man sent from Germany to support her investigation, the blunt and seemingly humourless, Matthew Reich, Thora and her new partner uncover not only fascinating aspects of Iceland’s history, but the victim’s enthrallment with the occult. From ancient caves and supernatural and other traditions, burial rights, superstitions and precious documents worth a fortune and which could change history, Thora and Matthew become immersed in a deadly game of hide and seek, power, lies and deception, all tinged with witchcraft and dark magic. Can they break the spell hanging over this case or will they too fall victim to the forces arraigned against them?

What I really enjoy about Nordic Noir is the emphasis on character as much as plot and this book is no exception. As the investigation continues and clues and dead-ends are explored, the reader is invited to get to know single-mother, Thora, and her children and familial life better as well as the professional and slow-burning personal relationship she builds with Max.

History and the wild and majestic Icelandic landscape become as much characters in this book as the murder investigation, adding richness and depth to the sometimes staccato scene changes and otherwise excellent dialogue.

Slow but rewarding, I look forward to more in this series.

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