📚Crime on the Fens (Nikki Galena Book 1) By Joy Ellis

DI Nikki Galena is a police detective with nothing left to lose. She’s seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She’s got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her. Too tough. And now she’s been given one final warning: make it work with her new sergeant, DS Joseph Easter, or she’s out.

DS Joseph Easter is the handsome squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname “Holy Joe” belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family.

A ruthless man who holds DI Galena responsible for his terrible disfigurement.

The town is being terrorised by gangs of violent thugs, all wearing identical hideous masks. Then a talented young female student goes missing on the marsh and Nikki and Joseph find themselves joining forces with a master criminal in their efforts to save her. They need to look behind the masks, but when they do, they find something more sinister and deadly than they ever expected . .

As part of my mission to find longer detective series to love, I started reading this book. Joy Ellis always comes up in recommended amazon reads and I just never paused to give the author time to captivate me. I read this on Kindle, and for Kindle the book is only 277 pages but those pages took time to read. This wasn’t a quick read for me and I read it over the course of a week. I found I needed to be in the right headspace to be able to consume the pages. I listened to a lot of classical music while reading this, the sounds just fit the tone of the book.

At the back of the book there is a character list, and I’ve included that below *word for word*.

Detective Inspector Nikki Galena

Although Nikki is a brave, honesty, and dedicated police officer who started at the bottom and clawed her way up through the ranks, she has been hardened by personal tragedy and some of the terrible cases she had dealt with. She is now a loner; almost impossible to work with, and although her arrest rate is impressive, she is on a one-woman crusade to rid her town of drug dealers.

She is based in the Lincolnshire Fens and her ‘patch’ includes miles of agricultural farmland, massive stretches of dangerous marshes and Greenborough, a big market town with as many criminals as some urban areas. Nikki is divorced, with one daughter who blames her for everything, including the family break-up. In CRIME ON THE FENS she finds herself with an ultimatum; work with a new colleague, or get out. As her work is her life, she needs to make the partnership succeed, or lose everything.

I honestly didn’t know what I would make of Nikki. At the beginning I thought ‘here we go again, another dysfunctional detective about to lose their job’ and I felt a little disappointed because this particular character plot seems very active within crime books. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by her character. Because yes, she is jaded, she does work outside the box and she is a nightmare of a colleague but she also gets the job done, she doesn’t fight her strength or determination and she’s completely unapologetic about who she is as a person.

As the book continued I started to feel something akin to warmness at her character and I started to understand what kind of person she was. A person with flaws, secrets, and overall, a person just trying to make it from A to B with the lights still on.

Detective Sergeant Joseph Easter

Joseph had a middle-class upbringing, good education, went to university then left to join the military. He keeps this fact a secret from his colleagues as he became bitterly disillusioned after an operation went wrong and innocent people died. After travelling for a while to sort his head out, he joined the police force, where he adopted a completely different (almost spiritual) role from his aggressive past. Although he is not religious, his quiet way and calm, reasonable attitude have earned him the mess room nickname of Holy Joe. This brings its own problems as very few hard-baked police officers want to work with someone who has become the brunt of so many jokes. Joseph has asked for a transfer, as he wants a fresh start, and he has high hopes for Greenborough and its legendary and irascible DI, Nikki Galena.

Joseph is the right balance between calm and secretiveness which works to balance out Nikki’s character. Joseph became the voice of reason within the plot of this story but he also showed he was an individual with individual thoughts and tastes. You can tell a lot of a character who has positive interactions with children, and had I any doubts to his character, how he interacted with Mickey would have brushed them away. Where Nikki wears her emotions on her face, Joseph wears his emotions in his actions. Towards the end of the book, his presence started to bring me comfort and I started to think that Nikki was in good hands with him as a partner.

DC Caitlin ‘Cat’ Cullen

Age 26, tough and shrewd on the streets. She is single with a string of failed romances. She is a bit too fond of clubbing and her time-keeping is questionable but Cat is a chameleon and works brilliantly undercover. Nikki recognises her skills and knows that she can trust her. One of Cat’s strengths is that once she gets her teeth into a problem she never gives up. Another is her keen interest in technology and computer skills. She is fiercely loyal to her team and works closely with her older working partner, Dave.

I wouldn’t have known half the things about Cat if this character description wasn’t listed in the back of the book. From reading, I guessed Cat was an overachiever who needs the praise of her superiors to believe she has done a good job. She is certainly committed and stops at nothing when she’d onto something but other than that, I really didn’t get a sense of her while reading, she just wasn’t featured enough.

DC Dave Harris

Dave is a good old cop, but misunderstood and thought to be overweight and lazy. He is actually exhausted by trying to look after his sick wife in order to prevent her going into a home; hence his unkempt appearance. Nikki knows his background, realises that his pride will not let him ask for help, and does her best to protect him. He repays her by committing wholeheartedly to her ’dysfunctional’ leam and brings with him a wealth of local knowledge and old-style intuitive policing.

Dave is a fantastic character. Actually I usually find the DC characters in a crime novel/series to be of more value than some of the main characters. This book needed a character like Dave to bring balance to all that was happening. With his home life he becomes less of a 2 dimensional character and more of a fully-fledged one. He has a sense of loyalty to Nikki that seems odd at first given her reputation but they gel in a way that makes perfect sense to them. There is a strong level of trust in everything that he does.

Superintendent Rick Bainbridge

Rick is nearing retirement and is not having an easy time with Nikki Galena. He is a genuine copper; an officer who has earned his reputation of being fair, and is generally respected by both lower and higher ranks.

He likes Nikki and is the only man at the station who knows the truth about what drives her. He has been out on a limb for her many times but now things are getting ugly and he cannot afford to lose his pension out of loyalty to a woman who is in danger of becoming a maverick. He needs to get his new alliance of Nikki and Joseph to work, or all their futures are in jeopardy.

Generally, every detective crime has a superintendent character, and these tend to go one of 2 ways. Either they’re supportive, ‘stick their head out for you’ characters like Rick, or they’re ‘get the job done on my terms, I’m watching you’ characters. I generally prefer the former because I feel like there is more space for growth and evolution than there is in the latter. Rick very much values Nikki on the force but also recognises that there are areas in which she must change should she want to continue doing her job. As a character he has a good blend of keeping her grounded while also letting her spread her wings.

So, onto the plot. As this book was more slow moving, I didn’t have time to engage in any adrenaline rushed theories. I definitely wasn’t as preoccupied with thinking of the theories as I perhaps am when reading other books. I actually enjoyed the slower pace. With the characters, especially Nikki, I felt that the slower pace was justified. Nikki is someone who wants to catch the bad guy but also wants to sweep all corners of the room, so having the plot on this slower wheel made more sense in that context.

The plot was brought about by many different elements that all wove together to tell an intricate story. Because I didn’t theorise much, I didn’t have a clear idea of what was going to happen and why – and honestly, post-read, I don’t think I could have come close to what actually happened. The plot was very neat. Sure, there were red herrings and turns that I wasn’t expecting but overall there was a neatness to it that I wasn’t expecting but also that I’m not used to seeing.

This book, being the beginning of a series, focuses much on the working relationship between Nikki and Joseph and whether or not it will work out. As a duo they worked remarkably well in a short amount of time, and it spoke highly of their adventures to come. I think both characters get something out of the other that they were missing before.

However, despite the changes that are clearly visible in Nikki by the end of the book, I don’t think her character has become a new person. I think much of her personality will remain the same as the series continues. I think the events of this book have just put things in perspective a little more and perhaps changed her outlook of life.

By the end of the book Joseph is perhaps a little worse for wear but still standing and his overall actions and emotions through the plot of this book spark me with a sense of warmth that his character will continue to shine and reflect the changes in Nikki with changes of his own.

I give this book: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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