Finished The Rock by LJ Ross last week. This story was released in May 2021. It is the eighteenth, and latest, novel in the DCI Ryan series that started with Holy Island which was published in December 2014. This story is built around the theme of human trafficking. The story starts when a trawler that is trafficking women from Asia into the UK crashes into Marsden Rock during a violent storm. One woman is killed and her body is left on the beach by the traffickers. DCI Ryan and his team are brought in to investigate the death.
Like the previous books in the series, Ross does an excellent job of using a specific place in Northumberland as the foundation of the story. This time it is Marsden Rock, a 100-foot rock formation located in Marsden Bay in Tyne and Wear. It is completely surrounded by water at high tide, but reachable by foot during low tide. In 1911, a large section of the rock collapsed leaving an arch. This was a major tourist and photography spot for many years. In 1996, the arch collapsed splitting the formation in two. The smaller remaining portion was declared unsafe and demolished in 1997.
The story also features scenes in Marsden Grotto. This unique gastropub is located in an 18th century cave that was dug into the cliffside that runs along Marsden Bay. In 1782 Jack Bates (aka Jack the Blaster) and his wife Jessie used dynamite from a local quarry to blast a large cave that became their home. They allowed smugglers to hide contraband cargo from abroad. During the 19th century, it was developed into an inn. Its notorious and often criminal history forms the basis of several popular legends and ghost stories including that of Jack the Jibber, a smuggler who was reputedly murdered by his fellow criminals after selling information to HM Customs. It is said that he was hung in a barrel in a cave close to the present lift shaft and left to starve. Ross plays this history into the storyline of The Rock.
This is the first long series I have read all the way through since I started a daily reading habit three years ago. I have enjoyed the stories and you get very invested in the characters. That said, the books are “light reads” and the first four or five stories were the strongest. Ross has been one of the authors that really made the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program work for her. Part of the reason I have kept reading is to get as much understanding of what is working and what is not as possible. I expect, despite the fact that recent releases have not been as strong as the early books, I will continue to read them as new books are released.
By LJ Ross
From the shadows into the light…
When a fishing boat is wrecked off the treacherous North Sea coast and the body of a young woman washes up on the beach beside the iconic ‘Marsden Rock’, DCI Ryan cannot ignore the call to duty.
With one already dead and more human cargo missing from the wreckage, Ryan and his team race to find the remaining souls — before it’s too late, and their investigation turns to murder. As they uncover the seedy underbelly of Tyneside, cold and calculated opportunism clashes with the rock-hard arm of the Law, but there’s one thing that proves stronger than stone…
The human spirit.
Published May 05, 2021
240 pages (print)