Review – Killer on the Fens, by Joy Ellis

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley, in return for an honest review.

I requested this book from NG because I like a good police procedural (although mainly I veer towards Scandinavian detectives – Wallender, Beck, Hole, van Veeteren), and because it is set in my native(ish) East Anglia. I miss the huge skies of the fens, and the marshy wastelands of Lincolnshire provide a suitably atmospheric setting for this story.

In general the tale is well-told, although it became clear after I had started the book that it is the latest in a series (the fourth, it turns out) and the main characters all have a lot of backstory and history. This made the first third or so of the book quite hard going, and I’ll admit I almost gave up. (I generally avoid coming in partway through a series of books; it feels a bit like being the new girl in class because everyone already knows each other.)

However, the book is well enough written and the story rattles along fast enough that I was soon caught up in it. The main character, DI Nikki Galena, is a damaged copper in the best tradition, with family and professional issues galore. She and her team are drawn into investigating what looks like an accident on an abandoned WW2 air base on the Lincolnshire marshes, but which inevitably turns out to be the trigger for a much larger case involving local crime syndicates and a serial killer.

If I’m honest, the serial killer part of the storyline did stretch my credulity a little (it all got a little bit Dan Brown), and some of the pop psychology analysis towards the end was  unnecessary, but I was involved enough by that stage that these things didn’t detract too much from the book. I did clock the culprit fairly early on, but again, that didn’t matter – there enough twists and turns that meant I doubted my conclusions, and, Hardy-like,  the brooding misty fens and the mysterious and frankly creepy air base gave the narrative a sense of menace and oppression.

All things considered, this was a competent murder mystery – not a great deal of depth to it, but that’s fine. It was a diverting read, and I recommend it to fans of Ann Cleeves or Lynda la Plante.