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Crime mystery set around Kielder Waterside, Northumberland

31st January 2018

Dark Skies by L J Ross, crime mystery set around Kielder Waterside, Northumberland.

Dark Skies is the 7th mystery in the DCI Ryan series, created by L J Ross. All the novels are set in and around Northumberland and this one is set at Kielder Waterside. They can be read as a series or as a standalone novel.

Crime mystery set around Kielder

It is in general true to say that this part of Northumberland is a very rural area with a low crime rate, but for the purpose of fiction it morphs into a wild a crime-ridden territory in the north of England. The Hacker was an early criminal who has left some of the main characters emotionally and physically scarred to this day, and his evil legacy certainly still reverberates long after his death.

Dark Skies opens with the murder of a young man in 1981. His body is discovered in 2016 during a diving trip in Kielder Water, a “bog body” remarkably preserved due to the highly acidic conditions, low temperatures and lack of oxygen, lying undiscovered in the water for nigh on 35 years. Duncan Grey was definitely murdered. Could he have been a victim of The Hacker? Thus begins Operation Stargazer (alluding to the clear skies above Kielder, which now can be observed in detail at Kielder Observatory).

DCI Ryan has finally married Anna, his long term partner, and she just happens to be in the vicinity with a team of University students when Duncan’s body is retrieved. But after only one night, one of her students, Guy, goes missing. His body soon turns up and it is clear that he has been murdered. Is there a link between the two deaths, separated by 3 decades? DNA at the time of Duncan’s murder was only on the cusp of becoming mainstream, but now, with its benefits, the investigators are better placed to determine who might be involved in the killings both past and present.

Jennifer Lucas is now up North heading the unit in which DCI Ryan works, but they have considerable history and she is seemingly determined to annihilate him. A shark just biding her time and stirring the waters.

As the book closes, some of the plot lines are left open – this may feel like an unsatisfactory ending to some readers – but it is clear that some threads will be picked up in the next episode. And I consciously choose the word episode, because the series feels like a satisfying literary equivalent of the box set: the characters develop, the relationships evolve and at the core of each story is a gruesome murder (or two) that needs solving by DCI Ryan and his team. As a reader one can dip in and easily pick up the thread on a standalone basis or take pleasure in seeing how each novel builds on the previous one by reading the books in order.

As to location – Kielder Waterside – the author herself says in her Author’s Note at the end: In my fictional story, I wanted to convey some of the enormity of the sky, water and forest, although it is no substitute for visiting the area and seeing the beauty for yourself. I have tried to remain as faithful as possible to the friendly atmosphere of Kielder Waterside and the villages surrounding the reservoir.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Enjoy the author chatting about Northumberland and her DCI Ryan series in this video:

You can follow L J Ross on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and via her website.

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