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#BookReview of Sycamore Gap by LJ Ross

  11 Apr 2021 |    4 minutes  |   Paul Mitchell

Book cover of Sycamore Gap by LJ Ross

Title:  Sycamore Gap
Author:  LJ Ross
Date Published:  9 Sep, 2015
Genre:  Mystery and Suspense
Publisher:  Dark Skies Publishing
ISBN:  9781912310029
Series:  DCI Ryan Mysteries #2
Pages:  304
Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Sycamore Gap is the second novel in the brilliant DCI Ryan series written by LJ Ross.

It begins at a secluded spot on Hadrian’s Wall called Sycamore Gap when a walker finds a skeleton buried within the wall. Ryan and his team are called out to investigate. They soon realise however that this isn’t an archaeological find but is more recent. In fact, it’s the skeleton of a woman that has been in the wall for 10 years and the team has managed to identify the victim based upon dental records.

With her identity known, some of the team recognise the victim and link her back to a serial killer known as the ‘Hacker’. He has since been caught and is serving a life sentence in prison. Kier Edwards (or the ‘Hacker’) also killed Ryan’s sister in a final act of his murder spree.

Events take a turn though when a second body is found at the original site. This victim has been dismembered which was the same method as the ‘Hacker’, but he is in prison. But further examination show marks on the body which is reminiscent of events that took place on Holy Island. In the previous novel, we were aware of the insidious group of Satanists known as ‘The Circle’ and that Ryan’s superior Arthur Gregson was a member. That storyline has been continued in Sycamore Gap and Gregson is keeping a close eye on the investigation.

So multiple threads are going on in this case and a lot of questions. Are there two separate killers for our Sycamore Gap victims? Where does Kier Edwards fit in with the case? What is the Circle’s involvement?

My Review

Well, I’m a little late to the DCI Ryan party. But after reading Holy Island and now Sycamore Gap I’m keen to make up for the lost time. The story is certainly not your run of the mill murder mystery, with a number of sub-plots plus a conspiracy going on in the background. It’s a cracking tale and a tense thriller, the intertwining storylines just drag you in.

It’s a bit different to other murder mystery stories and there’s plenty to keep you guessing. The main theme is the hunt for a serial killer after finding the skeleton buried within the wall. Then there’s the connection of the victim to the Hacker, another serial killer who is safely behind bars but still has access to the outside world. This is further complicated as Kier Edwards (said Hacker) also killed Ryan’s sister before being captured. To top it all off, there’s the link to the Circle with the second body. They were introduced in Holy Island and the storyline has continued into Sycamore Gap. One of their fold who we are aware of is DCS Gregson, Ryan’s immediate boss. But are there more members embedded in the establishment?

Because we don’t know who we can and cannot trust, LJ Ross is able to ramp the suspense up a few notches. Lead characters, especially the females are placed in imminent danger when seemingly alone. Even when you think it’s all over, there’s another twist. Marvellous.


As for our main characters, Ryan is back and he’s a lot closer to Anna Taylor since Holy Island. He still lives in his plush apartment which has so many bad memories for him, but he spends a lot of time living in Anna’s cottage. He has flashbacks to when his sister was murdered in front of him but still keeps a lot to himself.

Ryan’s sidekick DS Phillips also returns and his relationship with DI McKenzie has blossomed which seemed inevitable in the previous novel. I like Phillips, he keeps Ryan in check, mainly with his friendly nature and fatherly banter. Where Ryan tends to keep things to himself, Phillips is a lot more extravert.

There’s a whole host of suspects in this case and all are equally viable. Kier Edwards is the only one who couldn’t have killed the second victim, but he’s still pulling strings in the background. I’m assuming that we’ll be seeing more of him in later stories as there seems so much more to come. Add the Circle into the mix and we have a whole host of protagonists working against the team.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, I thought Sycamore Gap was an excellent story and now can’t wait to get started with Heavenfield, the next in the series.

It’s the second in the series and I would advise you to read Holy Island first as the storyline crosses over into this novel.

Highly Recommended…

See also: Heavenfield

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