I’ve enjoyed Joy Ellis’s DI Nikki Galena police procedurals before. Hidden on the Fens, the 11th in the series, has a promising premise. A mysterious derelict cottage in the woods appears to hold clues to an old crime – and the threat of a new one, both involving teenage girls.
The cottage was hidden for decades until the landowner began clearing the wood. Meanwhile his parents, two agreeably eccentric academics, say they know nothing of its history but his mother is receiving odd ‘offerings’ on her doorstep, which appear to be linked to witchcraft, her field of study.
The nature of the crime, the remote location, the juxtaposition of the forward-thinking landowner who is intent on conservation and the setting, which is unchanged for decades, conjure an atmospheric world. Added to that, there is a personal angle. The environmental consultant working with the landowner is married to another officer, and is the daughter of Galena’s sergeant and partner, Joseph Easter.
Galena and the team are interesting characters, there are lots of connections and developing relationships (although you can dip in and out of the series, as I have, and the books still make sense). I was initially really enjoying this one too, but around the middle my interest started to sag.
I think there are a couple of reasons. First, there is a lot of extraneous detail that slows the book down. It matters to Galena (and to Ellis) who is doing what shift, and what task they have outstanding, and a little bit of detail can add flavour to the reader, but there is too much housekeeping and it weighs down the pace for the reader.
I also felt disappointed by the eventual resolution of the story. It wasn’t as twisty as I’d hoped and the behaviour of some of the secondary characters strained credulity.
So, Hidden on the Fens is not, for me, Joy Ellis at her best, but it was still good to catch up with Galena and the team and I’d be happy to read another.
I received a copy of Hidden on the Fens from the publisher via Netgalley.
View Hidden on the Fens on Goodreads
Try instead – another interesting novel about new evidence on an old case is the audiobook original The Seventh Victim by Michael Wood