As a general rule I never post a review if the book (in my opinion) only merits one or two stars. I gave the following book one star on Goodreads and two stars on Amazon as the one and two stars respectively mean the same thing – “I did not like it.”
So why do I break my rule? I can’t stand hype! The success of this book is due to hype. It is a complete mystery to me why it has been so successful.
I was curious about this book having it pop up from time to time in various newsfeeds and mentioned by other writers I know.
My Kindle Unlimited deal made me take the plunge to see what the hype is all about. And it is hype. I am delighted I did not spend money on a copy of this book.
Holy Island is a mystery thriller and I have to say at the outset that the biggest mystery seems to be how a book like this ever garnered over 2000 reviews and figures so highly in the Amazon UK sales rankings.
Do not believe the best or the worst of the reviews of this book. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The bottom line for this reader is that I will be going nowhere near any of the other books by this author in the DCI Ryan series.
The story, all about “tall, dark and handsome” (pleeease – one of many clichés to be found) Detective Chief Inspector Ryan of the Northumbria Constabulary (not the Northumbria Police Constabulary as the author would have it) starts off on Holy Island off the coast of Northumbria. A nice place and a nice setting which the author knows well and thus describes it well.
Our detective hero appears to be a recluse at the beginning and we learn he is recuperating from a traumatic event. An event that was so traumatic, it would possibly made a good book in itself.
As luck, good or bad, has it, a murder happens on the island while he is recuperating. The island apparently has a population of about two hundred with no official resident police officer, one pub, a vicar, a doctor and the coastguard station. But we eventually learn that despite the low population, several murders all take place one after the other. The reader could possibly accept this killing spree if it was the work of one deranged individual. But, no, there is a pagan cult at work here and we also eventually learn that most of the island’s most notable and respected folk are behind this series of ritualised murders.
This is what is seriously wrong with this book. It stretches credulity to breaking point and beyond. Towards the end of the book I felt I was watching a pantomime and needed to shout “Watch out! He’s behind you!” It became so farcical, so laughable.
Not content with creating this element of farce, the author then goes further in the epilogue when revealing the identity of the “main man” behind the pagan circle. It is a joke too far! It moved from farce to downright disaster.
The shame is Ms. Ross at times had me in the palm of her hand during the more lucid passages of writing and the credible scenes. For me, she ruined her good work by letting her imagination not only run riot but run silly.
The story and the plot lines needed controlling, needed tightening. Good mystery thrillers are all about suspense, pace and credibility. Fiction is allowed to bend and expand credibility a little but not shatter it like this author.
So many of her back stories needed either killing off or curtailing. Some were simply silly such as the psychedelic properties of a certain flower seed. When she wrote about the victims having this drug administered to them, I was waiting for the description of the hallucinations. No, instead we were regaled with words suggesting the drug made one sleepy and vomit. At that point I also felt the same way.
The denouement of any work of fiction is important. This author’s method was downright silly. Ryan was depicted as a kind of John McClane (Bruce Willis) character at the end performing acts of heroism. His sidekick, Philipps and the female Detective Inspector donned military kit and jumped into an assault helicopter as if they were crack assault troops. All very silly and all totally unnecessary.
It has been said that Ms. Ross has sold over one million copies of her books. That is the real mystery to me, if true.