Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross

A review of the whodunnit crime novel Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross.

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Ryan’s Christmas is a murder mystery story set in the north of England. Due to the bad weather, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan, his wife Anna, and their friends—Detective Sergeant Frank Phillips and Detective Inspector Denise MacKenzie—are stranded in a country castle. There’s no phone signal and the landlines have been brought down because of a storm. There are no houses nearby and they’re stuck in a snow drift. The group’s only option is to take refuge in the castle.

I’m getting a bit of a Scooby Doo vibe.

There are others staying at the castle for a paranormal mystery weekend. After a very strange séance, one of the inhabitants is murdered. Luckily, Detective Ryan is on hand to take the case.

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is a well-established character and LJ Ross has written quite a few books before this one with him as the lead. Having not read any of her other work, there were a few mentions of past cases that Ryan had been involved in, however this didn’t spoil the experience of this one. It was easy to jump into this book without having read any of the others.

LJ Ross has developed a well-rounded protagonist in Ryan and she knows her creation well. The book is well-written and easy to read. There is no gratuitous swearing, violence, or sex—this is a plain old-fashioned Agatha Christie-like novel, which isn’t a bad thing. It made quite a nice change from the usual things I read.

All the characters are well-developed and have very distinct personalities, but not necessarily ones you would expect. Even the six other guests at the castle have their own personas, with all of them being three-dimensional and believable. The story flows well, and though it does start off quite slowly, I didn’t mind.

Obviously, as Ryan and the group are stranded when there is a murder, they must rely on their own investigative senses and knowledge to solve the mystery. Although a tad unlikely, this added an interesting aspect to the story. LJ Ross has added in a few twists that keep the reader guessing and, even though I found the culprit quite obvious, there were a few things that I didn’t see coming.

The setting, as well, is really well described and Ross does create a sense of atmosphere throughout the whole story. At times, I felt I was in the spooky castle.

Ryan’s Christmas felt like a classic murder mystery that had been brought into modern times, but still encompassing the things that made those types of books good to read. I enjoyed reading this one and I would definitely recommend it.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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