Hello and welcome to the LJ Ross Book Club!

I created this space for book lovers, to spark positive conversations about our shared love of reading! Here, you can discover my monthly picks of the best classic and new titles (when you’re not reading the latest DCI Ryan, of course!) and look out for monthly competitions, giveaways and live Q & A’s with guest authors. Join in the conversation online, or sign up to the newsletter to find out more. #LJBookClub

August Picks

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote

About

In a slight departure from the norm, this month’s recommended reading comes in the form of Truman Capote’s non-fictional classic, In Cold Blood. First published in 1966, it recounts the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family, in a small farming community in Kansas. Capote began writing about the murders soon after they were reported, travelling to Kansas with his friend and fellow author, Harper Lee, eventually taking six years to complete his novel—although the killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were caught six weeks after the crime was perpetrated.

LJ’s thoughts

Generally considered to be one of the finest true crime novels ever published, In Cold Blood is a chilling tale and good example of ‘New Journalism’—a style of writing whereby the author writes the story while it is still developing in real life. Capote conducted thorough research, including interviewing both killers prior to their eventual execution, and the level of detail really shines through as he recounts the tale of Hickock and Wells who, having recently been paroled from the Kansas State Penitentiary, drove four hundred miles to the Clutter farm on the strength of—as it turned out—inaccurate intel from Hickock’s former cell-mate, who had worked for the Clutter family and had told him they kept a safe stuffed full of cash, ripe for the picking. In the end, the two left the scene with only a portable radio, a pair of binoculars and less than fifty dollars in cash. Capote’s style is eminently readable and draws the reader in, such that we become as eager to understand the kind of dastardly minds capable of committing such a raw, premediated crime. For fans of crime fiction, this is a must read!

Where to find it

The Face on the Cutting Room Floor

Cameron McCabe

About

This month’s dose of Golden Age detective fiction comes to you from Cameron McCabe, whose novel, ‘The Face on the Cutting Room Floor’ tells a tale of murder at a London film studio, where actor Estella Lamare, whose role had already been cut from a producer’s upcoming movie, is found dead in the cutting room, her death having been captured on film by an automatic camera—though, the reel has inevitably gone missing. The investigation takes the reader from Bloomsbury to Soho, from King’s Cross to the docks in the East End and back again.

LJ’s thoughts

This is one of those novels that is so very hard to talk about, save to praise its strong sense of place and originality, without giving the game away. It’s a work of crime fiction, but it seems more than that—perhaps, because the book’s author was himself imbued with mystery. ‘Cameron McCabe’ was only twenty-two when his novel was published, and had only been able to speak English fluently for around four years. McCabe was the pen name of Ernst Wilhelm Julius Borneman, who had arrived in England as a Communist refugee from Nazi Germany in 1933. Already well regarded in European literature, he quickly brought himself up to speed with the English equivalent—developing a fondness for Dashiell Hammett, amongst others, which might explain the Noir overtones in Cutting Room, with its hard-boiled dialogue and brisk style It’s an intelligent read, which steeps the reader in 1930s London and offers a different experience to the usual crime fiction formula. Well worth a read!

Where to find it

May Picks

Brighton Rock

Graham Greene

About

Behind the tourist façade and bright lights of 1930s Brighton, a gang war is raging. The book’s antihero, ‘Pinkie’, is a seventeen-year-old psychopath and up-and-coming leader of the ‘mob’ who has killed a man with merciless relish. He believes he can escape retribution by silencing the witness to his crime—but he doesn’t account for Ida Arnold, a decent woman with a relentless thirst for justice…

LJ’s thoughts

This is an unforgettable read, from start to finish. Gritty and clever, even the title of the novel is imbued with meaning—it refers to the confectionary sold at seaside resorts, with the name of the resort traditionally embedded through the centre, only revealed when the stick of rock is broken in half. Greene used this as a metaphor for Pinkie’s character in the novel, which is to say that his black character was the same all the way through to his core. This story has gravitas from the very first page, forcing the reader to consider ‘big’ questions of good versus evil; of the tenacity of the human spirit; of faith and other moral questions—without detracting from the main thrust of the storyline, which remains thrilling throughout. If you’ve never read any of Greene’s work before, you can’t beat this for an introduction!

Where to find it

Surfeit of Suspects

George Bellairs

About

‘At 8 o’clock in the evening on the 8th November, there was a terrific explosion in Green Lane, Evingden.’ The offices of the Excelsior Joinery Company have been blown to smithereens and three of the company directors lie dead amongst the rubble. Littlejohn’s investigation is soon confounded by an impressive cast of suspicious persons, each concealing their own axe to grind, in this classic thriller described by some as a 'gripping masterpiece of misdirection'.

LJ’s thoughts

I love these British Crime Classics! Surfeit of Suspects has enough to keep your brain teased, whilst being accessible enough to read comfortably in the bath or at the end of a hard week. Perfect escapism!

Where to find it

February Picks

Quick Curtain

Alan Melville

About

In this British Library Crime Classic, the show opens at The Grosvenor theatre to a packed house, where the lead actor is shot and another actor is found dead. Initial appearances suggest a straightforward case of murder followed by suicide. Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard and his son, an enthusiastic young reporter are both in the audience that night and they suspect foul play...

LJ’s thoughts

Alan Melville found his audience during the 'Golden Age' of crime fiction but, with the passage of time, his work was gradually forgotten. However, thanks to its revival as part of the series of British Crime Classics, new audiences have been able to discover his accessible, nostalgic storytelling with its humorous flavour. I loved it, and have set one of my own books in London's Theatreland, so I appreciate a dramatic setting..!

Where to find it

Kiss the Girls

James Patterson

About

It’s the second of Patterson's blockbusting novels to feature his main protagonist, Alex Cross, a forensic psychologist and police detective often known as ‘Doctor Detective’. In this outing, he finds himself pitted against two serial killers calling themselves, ‘Casanova’ and ‘The Gentleman Caller’, the former of whom is responsible for abducting Cross’ niece, Naomi, a talented student and musician. Cross travels to North Carolina to investigate personally, and is immediately embroiled in the case.

LJ’s thoughts

When you’re a household name like James Patterson, familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. However, picking up Kiss the Girls is a salutary reminder of how Patterson came to find worldwide success: whilst remaining eminently accessible, the book is a finely-crafted thriller, full of pace and tension, and takes good care to orientate the reader in whichever city or country setting Cross happens to be in. The protagonist is likeable — a feat, as any author will tell you, which is not always easy to achieve — and the antagonists deadly, ruthless and compelling, as the best baddies surely ought to be. Though the novel was adapted for the screen during the nineties featuring Morgan Freeman in the title role, this is one of those instances where the book is every bit as cinematic, and turning the pages isn’t far from reading a screenplay. Satisfying reading, for those wintry nights!

Where to find it

January Picks

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

About

First published in 1960, this Pulitzer-prizewinning novel deals with hard-hitting issues of racial inequality and rape, but it’s a novel woven with warmth and humour, told from the perspective of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch - better known as ‘Scout’. She recounts her life in the small, tired town of Maycomb, Alabama, where she and her brother Jeremy (‘Jem’) and her father, local attorney Atticus Finch, live. Through her eyes, we meet their mysterious neighbour, Boo Radley, and watch the story of small-town bigotry unfold when Atticus is appointed to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a young white woman.

LJ’s thoughts

Sometimes, studying a book at school can have the effect of putting you off it for the rest of your days, but that certainly hasn’t been the case for me when it comes to re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I tend to re-visit this book every couple of years and, although I might already know how the story ends, it’s the nuggets of wisdom and acute observations about the human condition that continue to have meaning. Now, as we continue to weather the storm of a viral pandemic in the ‘real’ world, I find myself picking this book up again to immerse myself in Lee’s fictional world to gather some perspective and, as always, it’s a revelation.

Where to find it

Crossed Skis

Carol Carnac

About

In this British Crime Classic, Inspector Julian Rivers of Scotland Yard finds himself investigating a murder in Bloomsbury. All the evidence points to an expert skier, which takes Rivers to the glittering slopes of snowy Austrian Alps.

LJ’s thoughts

This is the perfect book to snuggle up with, because it has it all - an atmospheric setting for a chilly mystery, a group of suspicious characters and even a high-speed chase across the slopes, before the story ends. Perfect escapism!

Where to find it

Sign up for the newsletter