Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross

Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Christmas can be murder…

After a busy year fighting crime, DCI Ryan and his team of murder detectives are enjoying a festive season of goodwill, mulled wine and, in the case of DS Phillips, a stottie cake or two—that is, until a freak snowstorm forces their car off the main road and into the remote heart of Northumberland. Their Christmas spirit is soon tested when they’re forced to find shelter inside England’s most haunted castle, where they’re the uninvited guests at a ‘Candlelit Ghost Hunt’. It’s all fun and games—until one of the guests is murdered. It seems no mortal hand could have committed the crime, so Ryan and Co. must face the spectres living inside the castle walls to uncover the grisly truth, before another ghost joins their number…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

It’s the week before Christmas and DCI Ryan and his wife have spent an enjoyable weekend day with Ryan’s colleague’s and their best friends Frank and Denise at the Edinburgh Christmas festival. On their trip back home, however, the weather turns against them and they’re forced off the main road and into the wilds of Northumberland. Seeking refuge inside England’s most haunted castle, they find themselves uninvited guests at a “Candlelight Ghost Hunt” while staying overnight. They try to take the fun in stride, only to find a real-life murder has taken place and their holiday cheer quickly becomes the grim reality of finding yet another murderer before the year is out.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this series and was excited to find this slightly shorter Christmas-themed story. Despite the slightly shorter length (but still a solid 250 ish pages) everything I as a reader enjoy about the regular books in this series was here on display in this Christmassy story as well. Ryan, Anna, Frank and Denise are well-rounded characters and have been working together seamlessly for a number of years – this being the 15th book in the series – and yet I still feel readers new to the author and series could pick this story up and find a fun murder-mystery and police procedural style of story. I do feel readers who have read at least a few of the previous books and understand some of the history and friendship between the main characters will find a deeper emotional connection to the book and characters, but I don’t feel that knowledge is necessary to enjoy this book on its own merits.

Readers who enjoy an older style – almost Agatha Christie-esque – small town, who dunnit, style of closed-door murder mystery should find this book right up their alley. At the party in the castle there are a finite number of characters assembled who had access to the body and so unlike many of the other books in this series the set-up wasn’t traditional to find a list of possible candidates but more to just figure out who present had the means, motive and opportunity. I also feel this style of mystery lent itself to the slightly shorter length of the book which was a clever move by the author.

I found this an enjoyable and solidly plotted read with a good Christmas theme and a solid murder mystery. The slightly slower pace of the police procedural mode of solving the puzzle appealed strongly to me and while readers used to more action orientated plots might find it a little slow, I personally thoroughly enjoyed the more realistic pace.

A good book with strong characters and a well-planned plot – this was a great and fun read I enjoyed.