Penshaw by LJ Ross

Penshaw by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

When you sell your soul, the devil gives no refunds…

When an old man is burned alive in a sleepy ex-mining village, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is called in to investigate. He soon discovers that, beneath the facade of a close-knit community, the burn from decades-old betrayal still smoulders. When everyone had a motive, can he unravel the secrets of the past before the killer strikes again?

Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, trouble is brewing with rumours of a mole in Ryan’s department. With everyone under suspicion, can he count on anybody but himself?

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

When an old man is burned alive in his small, village home DCI Ryan first things it should be a fairly simple case. Only he quickly discovers there is plenty of decades-old tension simmering just under the surface and a number of old grudges and betrayals that have never really been put to rest. Also, with a number of the police divisions merging together – lines are blurring, and DCI Ryan’s team are no longer exactly who is trustworthy and who might have sinister other agendas.

I found this to be an interesting and decently plotted police procedural type of mystery story. There is a bit of romance in the sidelines between some of the main characters – two sets of very well-established couples and Jack and Mel are trying to sort out will they or won’t they take that plunge. I found the two main mystery plots to be very well written and solid additions to the story but found myself a bit disappointed with the whole Jack/Mel situation. Without giving too much away I found them both to act a bit immaturely – with Mel throwing a number of Jack’s previous mistakes in his face during an argument and Jack knowing he was in a bit over his head and refusing to reach out to Frank or Ryan to even get their advice – let alone ask for help. While each problem is excusable, it really felt to me like they were both showing how immature and not sensible they were being, particularly considering the fact they’ve each been in similar situations before and clearly not learned anything from it. It soured me a little on them both which was a shame.

That said I thought the arson investigation was a solidly written plot and I enjoyed the way the author linked the small mining town back to the past and really captured the feeling of both the residents in a small village like that and the way wounds can fester over time. I also thought the tensions and inter-office conflict with a number of the various police forces coming together and needing to work together as a unit was exceptionally well handled. With so many different groups – all having worked in their own divisions and teams for so long – and so many different dynamics and ego’s all being crammed together and suddenly needing to share and co-exist the drama and issues really felt well-handled and realistic. It added a lot of conflict and drama to the interactions and story without feeling as if plot devices were being dragged around the regular team and dynamics and things being added just to create tension. I thought it was a good idea and will be interested to see how it unfolds in the next few books.

This is a good story with two solid plots. While I feel it could be picked up without the reader having read any of the previous books, I don’t feel this is a good book to try that with. Personally, I’d read at least a few of the previous installments as many of the characters, history and teamwork that so strongly ties them together would need some explanation prior to this story. Having at least some idea on how the team works together and a general grasp of their history together is fairly important to fully enjoy this story I feel. But it’s a great British mystery and police procedural style of plot and well worth the investment.

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