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Saturday 7 August 2021

‘Marshlight’ by Joy Ellis

Published by Joffe Books,
8 July 2021.
ISBN 978-1-78931852-4 (PB)

This is the fourth in Joy Ellis’s Matt Ballard series. Although Matt and his partner Liz are now retired from the police force and working as private investigators, it is Liz’s cousin Christie who is the main protagonist in this complex story involving a cold case murder, a disappearance and lots of strange goings on.

Liz invites Christie to stay while she researches the area for her elderly blind boss, the mystery writer Auden Meeres. Christie immediately makes several friends in the village including the local bookshop manager Tom and Delphi who works in the shop’s cafe. The one person she does not take to is Gina who owns the bookshop. Christie is appalled at the way Gina bawls out her staff in public, but Tom and Delphi won’t hear a bad word against Gina. Nor will local water-colour artist Jane, who despite Gina’s constant belittling of her talent, also seems to think that Gina, despite her faults, is a wonderful person.   

Joy Ellis has the ability to create fully rounded memorable characters. Even the minor characters such as Tom’s devoted mother Margaret – the only other person who appears to distrust Gina and see her for the manipulator she is – and the Rev Ian Hardy who arrives to sell the cottage belonging to his recently deceased sister and becomes a firm friend of Christie.

Almost a character in its own right is the fenland setting against which the story unfolds. I have never been to the desolate Lincolnshire marches but thanks to Joy, I can feel the hypnotic call of the Will-of’-the-whisp at night drawing me into danger until I can feel the clammy mist enveloping me making every nerve end tingle.

I’ve loved every one of Joy’s books that I’ve read, but the involvement I felt with what was happening and the need to know if Gina’s ploys would succeed kept me turning the pages long into the night, plus the deft way Joy drew all the plot strands together at the end, make this my favourite of her books so far.

Reviewer: Judith Cranswick

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.

Judith Cranswick  was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’

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