Book Review

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Angel, by LJ Ross

This is one of Louise Ross’s earlier DCI Ryan stories—the fifth, in fact—and the review of one of her later ones, Cragside, which I posted only a few weeks ago; mere serendipity that I came across this one so soon; does contain details of action which occurs after the conclusion of this one, but I don’t think the first review is a plot spoiler for this one, so I would respectfully suggest reading the earlier one, to get the characters’ details, and I won’t repeat them here. Whereas Cragside is a slightly claustrophobic story, in that a lot of the action happens in & around one specific location, this one is a more normal police procedural, which can be comforting in a certain way, and all the principal characters are present here, including a certain criminal character also mentioned in the later story.

In common with many novels [and Cragside], there is a prologue, detailing the unfortunate death at Easter, 1990, of a young girl, resident in what might be a children’s home run by nuns, and the present-day [2016] murder of a woman, by a man who clearly has some sort of religious fixation; there is even a quotation from Vladimir Nabokov, no less, to set the scene. After this, we settle into the narrative of the Northumbria police trying to solve the murders of two young red-headed women, who have been found in quick succession over the Easter weekend in freshly dug graves in local graveyards: both women’s bodies have been arranged in a particular pose, post mortem. Another, older, woman is found murdered in her own house, but this death is not seen as connected to those of the young women, and an elderly nun is also murdered, although because her body is not found immediately, the connection to the murders of the red-headed women is not made quickly. The religious element is obviously the key to solving these crimes, but of course, Ryan knows that, despite his antipathy towards organised religion, he & his team will have to proceed carefully, to avoid antagonising potentially litigious clerics and, at the same time, stay in the ‘good books’ [if that is even possible] of his superior, Chief Constable Sandra Morrison.

I wanted to be able to give this book a good review, after having moderately enjoyed the aforementioned earlier story, and the plot is reasonably well structured, but it is let down slightly by a few small niggles [and one major one] which detracted from my overall enjoyment of it. I have mentioned this before, so I don’t think I need to apologise again for it, but the use of Americanisms in a definitively British narrative always grates with me: hood for a car bonnet; sputter where we have always used splutter; and my favourite [sic] bête noire, stomp—at least Ryan doesn’t drink ‘Scotch’ whiskey! I never set out to emulate King Cnut [notwithstanding my republican sentiments], but I feel like that’s who I might be turning into! The major reservation I can’t describe in any detail [sorry to tantalise], other than to mention a random plot element which is introduced late in the narrative, but I was left feeling slightly let down by the ending: unfortunately, this is not explained in the epilogue, the author’s note, or the acknowledgments; I will, however, keep my eyes open for other books in this series. The [Amazon Fulfillment {sic}, printed in Poland] paperback I read was self-published by LJ Ross, 2016, ISBN 978-1-5190-1093-3.


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