Lead Review

  • Book: Cragside
  • Location: Northumberland
  • Author: L J Ross

Review Author: tripfiction



This is No. 6 in the #1 bestselling series featuring DCI Ryan (or, Detective  Chief Inspector  Maxwell Finlay-Ryan to give him his full name), written by L J Ross, who is successfully pursuing a self publishing career, having turned down a traditional publishing deal! She is the author who knocked The Girl on the Train off the bestseller top spot (link). She has sold well in excess of 1,000,000 (yes, a million) copies of her books to date and her star continues to rise! All her novels to date are set in Northumberland.

Cragside is a cosy crime mystery set in the house and grounds of the eponymous imposing Cragside estate, built by the Armstrong family in Victorian times and now run by the National Trust. You can really sense the influence (which L J Ross goes on to mention below) of Agatha Christie in the author’s work.

his novel works well as a standalone book but perhaps what a reader might miss is the build up of the various relationships within the series. DCI Ryan is about to tie the knot with his partner Anna and so there is a human strand that gently weaves its way through the narrative. The two have come to rent a house on the Cragside estate due to earlier events involving serial killer “The Hacker”. Now, at a summer party thrown by current Cragside owners, the Gilberts, a pleasant evening turns very sour, as the Gilbert’s personal butler, Victor Swann is found dead.

The death seemed to occur during a power outage – a clever use of detail – because Cragside still tries to run on the gadgetry for hydroelectricity, installed by the Victorian builder of the house. But power surges, when using modern technology, can rupture the antiquated system, so everyone in the house is more than careful about timing the use of state of the art gadgets. It seems that Victor may have stumbled to his death down a flight of steps, it doesn’t look particularly suspicious.

However, the investigating team starts to have niggling doubts about whether this is a pure accident or whether there is something more sinister going on. They start to probe beneath the veneer of the motto: “We’re like family, at Cragside”. A second death – in brutal circumstances – certainly gives them the ammunition to take the investigation in a new direction. Operation Lightbulb is soon underway, and it is a pertinent title for the investigations as Cragside was the first building in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity!

There are plenty of characters who might be in the frame for having motive for murder – people trying to cover their tracks (remember, bleach does not mask blood residue!) and there is certainly someone astutely observing  the comings and goings of the investigation team. It is also clear that an explosion on the Valiant, a ship being constructed back in the 1970s over on the Tyne shipyards, is potentially part of the picture…. How does DCI Ryan get to the bottom of what is going on???

A very readable mystery set in the heart of Northumberland.

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