DCI Ryan Mysteries, Book 1
By LJ Ross • ★★★★
LJ Ross is one of the top independent authors in the mystery genre. Her sleuth, DCI Ryan, is a haunted detective with a traumatic past he can't escape, and readers have fallen in love with him.
Though Ryan can be irascible—and, in an early scene, a bit misogynist—he's nevertheless compelling. His love interest, a willowy doctor of antiquities, is also an interesting character. The setting is interesting, as well: the island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England, is a place full of religious history. The main route to the island is a causeway, but it's often underwater at high tide or during storms. (Yes, it's a real place, and the causeway is real as well.)
However, there are so many familiar tropes used in the plot that it often takes the reader out of the story. The romance is love-at-first-sight, and the body count piles up to form a pattern that only the detectives in the book fail to see. Most mystery and thriller readers will figure out what's going to happen in the climax, with warnings throughout the book of the island being hard to get to during a storm, and Ryan warning his new lady love to stay on the island where it's safe.
Although the plot twists might be telegraphed from miles away, however, the execution is excellent. The dialogue often crackles with tension, the characters all have their own unique voices, and the tension always amps up in the right places.
The Dan Brown-like elements of the plot—an ancient religion that's twisted to the whims of the nefarious bad guys—isn't that appealing. And the twist revealed at the end means that we may have more of the same in future books. Still, I'm planning to read book two in the series. All in all, an enjoyable read and a promising start to a series.
—Paul Austin Ardoin