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Tuesday 23 May 2023

‘Graves on the Fens’ by Joy Ellis

Published by Joffe Books,
1st December 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-80405692-9 (PB)

 It is always a pleasure to pick up a new Joy Ellis novel and there are plenty to enjoy from this prolific author. Graves on the Fens is her fourteenth Nikki Galena book but there are also nine Jackman and Evans novels and five Detective Matt Ballard stories to enjoy.

In Graves on the Fens Nikki appears to be the target of a want-to-be-detective who bombards her with a series of letters accusing her of letting down the victims of four unsolved cold-cases involving the missing young women whose bodies were never discovered. Why the writer has singled out Nikki to blame is a mystery because not only was she not involved in any of the investigations, but also the victims went missing in other Fenland police districts. The race is on to find each body within the limited timeframe her tormentor has given her and also to identify him before more deaths occur.

There are several strands to the far-ranging plot which gradually weave together to provide a fast and furious pace with plenty of twists and turns that will keep the reader turning the page. Given the number of storylines in the novel, there are a great many characters, however they are all well-drawn and easily identifiable. Nikki’s personality has changed over the course of the novels. The difficult, spiky character who ran roughshod over both her colleagues and police procedures in the earlier books in the series has mellowed considerably as her relationship with DS Joseph Easter has grown. I must confess, I found the earlier feisty Nikki made for a much more interesting character, but logic says that anyone who proved so difficult for colleagues to work with and sailed so close to getting suspended for flouting police practices could not have survived in the force.

That said, there are plenty of interesting minor characters who take the limelight. I do love novels where the setting place such a significant role that they become a character in themselves. Joy Ellis’s ability to exploit the unique eerie atmosphere of the cold, swirling mists of this bleak area surrounding The Wash perfectly sets the background mood for a chilling crime novel.
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!’ Her most recent book is Peril in Persia.

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