‘Their Lost Daughters’ – Jackman and Evans #2 by Joy Ellis

Deep in the muddy fields of the Lincolnshire Fens, a teenage girl is found wandering, delirious, claiming to have been drugged at a party. Metres away, the drowned body of another girl is found on an isolated beach. And all this on a small stretch of land where, nearly 10 years ago, the shocking disappearance of a young girl remains an open case. 

For DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans, the pressure is on to bring the perpetrators of these shocking crimes to justice.

Are the crimes linked? Who are these young girls? And what on earth is going on under the green and pastured land of the Lincolnshire Fens? 

My limited experience with Joy Ellis has not been as positive as I’d have liked. I thought ‘Crime On The Fens’ (2010), the first Nikki Galena book, had an original story and some strong characters but was marred by boilerplate text delivered by an indifferent narrator. The next thing I read was a standalone novella ‘Guard Her With Your Life’ (2022). The writing was vastly improved and I liked the plot but I felt the ending let the novella down a bit.

Still, it left me with an appetite for some more Joy Ellis so I took advice from a well-informed fan of her work and was pointed to the Jackman and Evans series, narrated by the inimitable Richard Armitage and told that the second book, ‘Their Lost Daughters’ (2017) was the right place to start.

It was excellent advice.

The plot of ‘Their Lost Daughters’ is complicated and unusual but credible. I liked the way that Joy Ellis fed me multiple, apparently unrelated, incidents that grabbed my attention and got me invested in the investigation, but left me wondering how and if all the threads would come together and then slowly but confidently led me through the maze of relationships and histories until the mysteries were solved.

Ellis’ storytelling style was strengthened by the introduction of a strong and diverse ensemble cast of police officers who worked together to figure out what was happening. I found this more interesting and much more credible than the more typical lone-tormented-genius-rule-breaking-cop-follows-their-gut-to-get-the-answer-and-nearly-gets-killed-along-the-way. Ellis’ police officers are real people. They have lives outside of work. The nasty things that they encounter in their work take an emotional toll on them. They support each other. They follow protocol. They do their jobs and they build relationships and skill along the way. I think this is an excellent foundation for building a series.

I liked that the story was textured. It wasn’t all one evil-doer who must be stopped at all costs. It was more complicated than that. Some of the things driving the plot were unusual and dramatic. A lot of the plot was driven by the banal evil of corrupt venal narcissistic people who treat the rest of us as prey. I think that mix worked very well. The story also had a strong sense of place. The geography, history and culture of the Fens were all woven into the plot.

Then there was Richard Armitage’s narration. He was the perfect choice for this. He manages all the voices and accents effortlessly and moved through the plot exposition details at a measured pace that kept me moving forward.

So, now I’m a fan.

I’ve already started the next book, ‘The Fourth Friend’ which is quite different but just a good and I know that the Joy Ellis / Richard Armitage combination will be one of my comfort reads from now on.

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