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Friday, 6 November 2020

‘The Shrine’ by L J Ross

 Published by Dark Skies,
26 November 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-91231016-6 (PB)

Coming into a series of novels when it’s been in progress for a while can have disadvantages. Earlier fans of L J Ross’s D C I Maxwell Ryan series will already be well acquainted with his close-knit team and his family background; I wasn’t. Reading The Shrine, I sensed a lot of backstory with which I’m unfamiliar. On the other hand, it does mean I have plenty of catching up to do, and by the end of the book I was already planning to do exactly that.

Ryan lives in the north-east, not far from the city of Durham, which is where he is based for work – and, as it happens, where the key events take place in this particular case. In fact, Ryan’s wife, historian and academic Doctor Anna Taylor-Ryan, is at the heart of the crime. She is visiting Durham Cathedral in her lunch hour when an explosion causes mayhem, and she is injured by the perpetrator as she tries to escape the chaos.

It turns out that the explosion wasn’t a terrorist attack as was first feared, but only a diversion from the real crime: the theft of Cuthbert’s Cross, a priceless relic from the cathedral’s collection of treasures. And just to complicate matters, at almost the same time one of Ryan’s colleagues in a neighbouring force is shot dead on her own doorstep.

Ryan and his team have their hands full – and since Anna is in hospital, badly concussed and in danger of losing the baby she is carrying, Ryan himself doesn’t have his mind fully on the job. Fortunately, his team, as well as being close-knit, is also well trained, and experienced enough to take the strain while he is otherwise occupied.

The investigation is complex; the dead policewoman’s force has recently been subject to a major clear-out because of corruption, and the cathedral staff don’t prove as helpful as they might be. And Ryan isn’t the only one whose family is occupying his mind and his time; married couple D I McKenzie and D S Phillips are in the process of adopting a young girl whose school career is not going smoothly.

It all works out in the end, of course; it is fiction, after all. But there are plenty of hurdles along the way, both personal and professional. My overall impression was of one episode in an ongoing saga of relationships, cases and personal development – and it’s a story I found I wanted to follow, to fill in the gaps in my knowledge inevitably left when a series is well under way, and to get to know these people better.
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Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

 L.J. Ross is the author of the international #1 bestselling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels. Her debut, Holy Island, was released in January 2015 and reached number one in the Amazon Kindle UK bestsellers chart. Louise was born in Northumberland, England. She studied undergraduate and postgraduate Law at King's College, University of London and studied abroad in Paris and Florence. She spent much of her working life in London, where she was a regulatory 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 Bath. She enjoys reading all manner of books, travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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