Mystery set in Northumberland – Penshaw – L J Ross
Tales of Penshaw, Lambton Worm and police drama
Mystery set in Northumberland – Penshaw – L J Ross – Penshaw is the 13th outing for DCI Ryan and the team. How time has flown! Thirteen might be unlucky for some, but not for this lot as this is a very strong number in the lineup. It’s got everything you’d come to expect from an L J Ross novel and more. Read after you’ve read the previous one called The Moor as there’s a lot of VERY interesting follow up….
What’s clever about this series is the setting of each one which is written around a landmark or place of interest. This time we head to Penshaw, a monument in the countryside close to Sunderland, where legend has it, a worm wrapped itself around the hill which gave it its famous shape. There’s lots more tales of legends and historical asides which pop up here. That’s before you even get to the historical and police side of the drama..
Welcome to Penshaw…
Setting: Rural Northumberland, former mining villages
Penshaw. When I knew the latest novel was set on this very iconic site, I was intrigued. This to any North East native, and indeed many visitors, is a legendary tale of folklore and magic. A giant worm once wrapped itself around the hill on which the monument is built, giving it its unique shape. This is a place where fighting dragons and getting justice for local people is well ingrained into the history and heritage.
Apt then that the major theme of the book is the Thatcher years, the closure of the mines and the collieries which left many scars on the North East landscape and collective memory. The novel’s core story is built on the experiences and glimpses of life in these pit villages. An area once proud and hard-working saw their men belittled and left with a sense of worthlessness. Communities foundered and life was hard for many for a very long time.
The main story however emerges strong from this solid basis of heritage and heartache. There is a murder and an investigation to get their teeth into (one involving a former miner, the other corrupt officers) which get the team working hard. Then there’s Jack – a character who has been through it and who we get to learn more about in this installment.
There’s lots to love here, but the best bit is that the easy style and easy flow of writing is what sucks you into the story. You read hungrily and quickly and only realise the complex historical background at the end. There’s solid research here that you access via L J Ross’ easy accessible style., Snippets of local history and intrigue pepper the juicy plot , only enhancing the flavour of the main meal and never overdoing it.
The characters are further developed too and there are some surprises in store. Some authors with such a meaty plot and background might neglect the characters but L J Ross puts them in the driving seat. Keep an eye on Mackenzie, Phillips and Samantha.
This really is a brilliantly woven series of crime, intrigue, romance and spectacular sense of place.