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Mystery set in Newcastle upon Tyne (Operation Showstopper)

22nd May 2019

The Moor by L J Ross, mystery set in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Number 12 in the DCI Ryan mystery series.

…fools in love were much more likely to behave irrationally in the heat of passion. More likely to make mistakes – for love, or through jealousy: More likely to kill…”

Mystery set in Newcastle upon Tyne

It’s a Sunday evening in June at the Elsdon home of DCI Ryan and his wife, and there is a knock on the door. A young girl of around 11 or 12 is standing on the doorstep. She introduces herself as Samantha O’Neill and she is approaching him with with recently resurrected memories, triggered by a jingle on the radio. She knows he is the man to help her.

The O’Neill Circus is in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s June 2019 and it’s the first time since 2011 that the performers and their Big Top have been back on the Town Moor in the city. Samantha, a young member of the circus troupe, describes to DCI Ryan how she can dimly recollect her mother being murdered. This is in stark contrast to the story put about at the time by her father (and circus owner) – that her mother Esme (short for Esmerelda) packed up one day to be with her new lover and abandoned everyone, including her daughter.

Amongst the circus fraternity there is a kind of omertà (like the silence of the Mafia). Everything is handled within the close-knit community, and anyone who takes their issues to authorities outside and beyond the circus folk is putting themselves in grave danger… and thus Samantha has put herself at enormous risk. She needs immediate protection.

It soon becomes evident that a body found in 2011 was indeed that of her mother and the police investigation becomes Operation Showstopper.

If you are familiar with the DCI Ryan series, the regular characters make their scheduled appearances and there is the on-going and usual banter – even an amorous liaison – which soon gets the reader back into the groove of crime fighting with DCI Ryan and his team, in and around Newcastle and Northumberland. Lowerson, however, by the end of the book has got himself into a scrape and quite how he will extricate himself waits to be seen…

It is a very easy to follow plot. Would social services really allow Samantha, who happens to be an incredibly well informed and resourceful child (given her background of neglect), stay with a police couple at the drop of a hat, even if they had their DBS certificates?

Location is delightful for someone who knows the area. You can follow the bodies as they turn up in the Dean Street Car Park, St Peter’s Wharf and Stocksfield, and there is even a rendezvous in the Corbridge garage. How do the murders of several seemingly unconnected characters – with the ends of their fingers missing (so they cannot be identified) – link to Samantha and her plight?

This can be read as a stand-alone but the characters will gain a greater richness if the books are read in sequence.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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