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Saturday 14 March 2020

‘Hidden on the Fens’ by Joy Ellis

Published by Joffe Books,
5 February 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78931343-7 (PB)

Richard Howard is worried.  He manages his parents’ farm on the sprawling Sedgebrook Estate on Jacob’s Fen where, over the last few weeks, strange things have been happening.  Farm implements have been disturbed or have disappeared and when he finds that a knife has been left on his parents’ doorstep, he decides it is time to visit Greenborough Police Station where he tells his story to Sergeant Niall Farrow. 

Richard’s description of events makes the police sergeant uneasy; agricultural tools being in the wrong place is one thing, leaving a knife next to someone’s front door is another.  Niall assures Richard that he will visit the estate on his way home that evening and retains the knife to check for any forensic evidence. 

After Richard leaves the station, Niall shows the knife to his father-in-law, Detective Sergeant Joseph Easter, who recognises the weapon as, “…a ritualistic knife used in Wicca, or witchcraft.”  Niall is now even more perplexed,“Witches? On Jacob’s Fen? Oh please!” 

In a further twist it transpires that Tamsin Farrow, Niall’s wife and Joseph’s daughter, is due to visit the Sedgebrook Estate Farm the following day as part of her work assisting farmers to achieve agricultural biodiversity.  Tamsin joins Richard and a team of volunteers to explore the aptly named Hob’s End Copse. She finds a derelict cottage camouflaged beneath thick undergrowth and a closer examination shows that the building has recently been occupied.  Richard wonders whether this might be connected with events at the farm and agrees that Tamsin should call her husband to report their discovery.  Niall, however, is engaged on another incident so it falls to DS Easter to attend the scene. 

As they are searching the building Joseph and his daughter come across an old leather satchel.  The DS is stunned to find that the bag contains photographs of a girl whom he immediately recognises as a nineteen-year-old who went missing some fifteen years earlier.  Jennifer Cowley’s body was never found but a local man, Patrick Shale, was convicted of her murder.  Enter DI Nikki Galena, Joseph’s supervisory officer and his partner.  Little does she know, as she steps into the cottage, that she is about to make an even more gruesome discovery.     

Hidden on the Fens is the eleventh book in the Fen Series but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel.  The characterisation is, as always, impeccable, and for those who, like me, have read the rest of the Nikki Galena and Joseph Easter books, it is super to see how the characters have developed through time.  The author weaves together several tantalising plot lines that tease and wrong-foot the reader as they build up to a wonderfully unexpected dénouement.  I had been looking forward to reading Joy Ellis’s latest novel and was not disappointed.  The tense and fast-moving thriller proved impossible to put down. 
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Joy Ellis was born in Kent but spent most of her working life in London and Surrey. She was an apprentice florist to Constance Spry Ltd, a prestigious Mayfair shop that throughout the Sixties and Seventies teemed with both royalty and ‘real’ celebrities. She swore that one day she would have a shop of her own. It took until the early Eighties, but she did it. Sadly, the recession wiped it out, and she embarked on a series of weird and wonderful jobs; the last one being a bookshop manager. Joy now lives in a village in the Lincolnshire Fens with her partner, Jacqueline. She had been writing mysteries for years but never had the time to take it seriously. Now as her partner is a highly decorated retired police officer; her choice of genre was suddenly clear. She has set her crime thrillers in the misty fens.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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