Holy Island

by L. J. Ross

Take an atmospheric island in the North Sea, add in an insular small community cut off from the mainland by the tides, spice it up with a Satanic cult, blend in a haunted chief detective and set it all in the dark days of a winter solstice, and you’ll have a good taste of HOLY ISLAND. 

HOLY ISLAND, published in January 2015, was Louise Ross’s first novel and launched the Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Ryan mystery series.
DCI Ryan has just come back to duty after being forced to take a leave when his last investigation of a violent serial killer left his sister brutally murdered.
When a neighbor comes to him sobbing about how she had seen a local girl’s body laid out on the altar of the ruined Priory of Lindisfarne, Ryan assumes the responsibility for the investigation.
Without consulting Ryan, his supervisor, Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS) Arthur Gregson brings in a consultant, Dr. Anna Taylor, an expert on the area’s early history and religious rituals. Now a University of Durham professor, Anna grew up on the island in an abusive, alcoholic family.
This is a lovely book to read as Halloween approaches. It’s well-written, suspenseful and set in an unusual, real location. The characters are complex and have interesting backstories.
Yes, the romance that develops between Anna and Ryan is predictable.  And an island with a population of less than 200 people that has three brutal deaths in just about as many days right before Christmas stretches credibility. Despite all, it’s a nice piece of escapism.
The ending is seriously weak, but it sets up the books that follow in the series:
  • SYCAMORE GAP. DCI Ryan is called in to investigate the skeleton of a young woman found inside the Roman wall at Sycamore Gap. Ryan finds himself in a cat-and-mouse-game with a relentless killer amid the scenic country surrounding Hadrian’s Wall.
  • HEAVENFIELD. Suspended from the Northumbria Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Ryan is fighting to clear his name. When a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, Ryan is the only other person for miles around. Soon prominent members of the mysterious “Circle” begin to die and the pressure is on both to find the killer without becoming his next victim.
  • ANGEL. Ryan is looking forward to a quiet Easter weekend with his fiancee. On Good Friday, he is called to a crime scene in one of Newcastle’s largest cemeteries. A redheaded woman has been found in  a shallow grave wearing angel’s wings. A nearly identical crime is repeated a second and then a third time, forcing Ryan and his team to ramp up their investigations.
  • HIGH FORCE. Ryan’s nemesis, the notorious Hacker, has escaped from prison and kidnapped one of Ryan’s best detectives from her home. The Hacker killed Ryan’s sister and nearly Ryan himself. With widespread public fear and a national manhunt running on a cold trail, the clock is ticking for Ryan and the team to find their colleague before she, too, is brutally killed.
  • CRAGSIDE. Ryan is recovering from his battle with The Hacker by spending the summer with his fiancee on the grounds of Cragside, a Bavarian-style mansion surrounded by woods. A summer staff entertainment — a Victorian murder mystery evening — turns fatal when an elderly man is found dead. The deeper Ryan and his team dig, the more they learn all is not as it appears.

The Author: Louise (L. J.) Ross

Louise Ross was born in Northumberland, England, the area where her DCI Ryan mystery series is set.  She studied undergraduate and postgraduate law at King’s College London as well as studying in Paris and Florence.
She worked as a regulatory lawyer in London for a number of years before deciding to pursue her dream of writing.  She wrote the first draft of HOLY ISLAND after the birth of her son, inspired by the atmospheric beauty of real island of Lindisfarne, which she has known since childhood.
She, her husband and son live in Bath.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here