This unpredictable debut novel is massively informed by the author’s first-hand experience of every day British policing. Tony Ryan brings immense depth and detail of actual hands-on police work to his tale, down to every minor detail. Like the officers who illicitly smoke in a squad car and stink it up; the intricacy of the custody suite and charging process, and the painstaking (you might almost say ‘plodding’) process of investigating a missing person case in the rural west of England.
That’s the springboard for this story in which clever plotting conceals the author’s true intentions. Even so, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that all is not peace and tranquillity in rural isolation. A young man’s car breaks down on a remote backroad and he seeks help from a ramshackle old mansion – where he’s met by a weird geezer displaying obvious hostility, and where he eventually encounters his ultimate destiny.
Throughout Ramus, the author challenges our preconceptions and the clichés of crime fiction. He tackles the thorny subject of mental illness without flinching. There are some strong scenes set within the prison system, and plenty of pithy observations about the effectiveness of the British justice system in (not) rehabilitating criminals.
We’re also introduced to an intriguing police investigator, DC Jain. He’s not the average fictional detective – an action-hero or a deductive genius – but instead appears to be drifting through the best years of his life. He’s clearly committed to performing his duties well and comes over as a man of conscience… but he’s not one of life’s over-achievers. More like an ordinary bloke doing the best job he can – which in this instance turns out to be a grisly series of killings with a possible culprit close at hand.
This is a first novel and it reads a little stiffly in places, almost like segments from The Big Boy’s Book Of Police Procedures. There are a few passages which needed an editor’s pen to tidy up the punctuation – but it’s still better than most self-pubbed indie novel. The author plainly has an inventive mind and a wealth of actual policing experience to share, and he’s created an unusually interesting character to serve as a springboard for further investigations. I’d happily read another so I hope he continues to hone his writing craft.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Ramus by Tony Ryan is available at Amazon