- Book: Penshaw
- Location: The North East (England)
- Author: L J Ross
This is no. 13 in the DCI Ryan crime mystery series, set all around the North East of England. This time the area covered is from Newcastle upon Tyne down towards Sunderland, County Durham and Penshaw (where of course the Penshaw Monument can be found, which is technically in Tyne and Wear). It is a faux Doric-style Greek temple – a Victorian Folly – perched atop a hill, built in 1844 in honour of John George Lambton, the first Earl of Durham. And ‘Lambton’ for many will conjure up images of the story of the Lambton Worm which had to be fought as it was terrorising local inhabitants. As you can see, the North East is an area rich in tradition and quirky history, and the author, in all her novels, makes good use of locale and lore.
As usual, the novel is a well-rounded tale of misdeeds and murders, with romance, humour and social concern thrown in. It opens in the 1980s with the Miners’ Strike, a tumultuous period in English history, when Margaret Thatcher pitched her iron fist at the collective mining community over pay. It was the start of the end of coal mining and caused huge damage to economic and societal infrastructure across mining areas in England – all situated in the northerly areas of the country.
In the novel, Alan Watson was on the picket lines in the 1980s and, now, in 2019 he is in his 80s. One evening – the 8th of June 2019 to be precise – his house is engulfed in flames, a fire that was started deliberately it seems. His wife survives, he does not. Why would someone target him?
There is also trouble brewing amongst the gangs who run the organised crime across the region. Bobby Singh is not to be messed with!
This mystery can be read as a standalone, as any mentioned incidents from the previous 12 books are explained but I think the charm of the series is getting to know the characters, especially the star of the books DCI Ryan. You find out more about his marriage and enjoy his friendship with colleague Frank Phillips (who is known across the land for his love of bacon stotties). The story unfolds seamlessly and the author’s style is easy to read and engrossing. What more do you need from a whodunnit?