Ellis, Joy - 'Shadowbreaker'
Set in the Fens, this picks up shortly after the events of the first book, MASK WARS, and features many of the same characters. DI Nikki Galena has moved back to her house on the fens, and DS Joseph Easter is just about to become a permanent member of her CID team. As the book opens, Nikki bumps into her neighbour Martin and exchanges a few pleasantries. She has no idea that in a few short hours she'll be called on to investigate a suicide, and discover that the dead person is Martin. Martin's suicide is particularly dramatic, as he races up a church tower, interrupting a tour given by the local vicar, and throws himself off the top, to the shock of everyone around him. Why would he suddenly kill himself in such a way, and why did he look so terrified just beforehand? Martin had only recovered from cancer, and seemed to have everything to live for. His friends and family find it hard to believe that he would take his own life.
Meanwhile, Joseph Easter is exercising, trying to regain his peak fitness after injuries sustained as a result of events that occurred in the previous book. He's pleased to be back at work, and the CID team are very happy to see him. His first task, not so exciting, is reviewing all of the suicides in the local area, the numbers of which appear somewhat higher than average. But then, while out in his car, he seems to see a familiar face from his military past, someone he knows to be a ruthless killer and a psychopath, called Billy Sweet. Why would he be here in a small Fenland town? Has he come to threaten Joseph and if so, why?
Then another body turns up, and this time it's a murder. Intriguingly, the male victim appears to look just like Billy Sweet. While Joseph realises it's not Billy, he does recognise the killing style of his old adversary. But why would Billy Sweet kill the victim?
With these two plot lines, Joy Ellis nicely sets the scene for the rest of the book. The two main characters, Nikki and Joseph drive the story along, and make a good team. They develop both their professional and non-professional relationship as they try to find out more about what is behind Martin's suicide and the murder of the dead 'Billy Sweet' lookalike. Joseph relates his military experiences to Nikki, which have clearly marked him, to help her understand why he is so afraid of Billy Sweet. The premise behind the story, which (without giving too much of the plot away) concerns drug companies, and testing, was a little bit far fetched. But, this niggle aside, Ellis's new book was a pleasure to read. Her novels are reminiscent of those by Belinda Bauer and Aline Templeton, but with a distinctive style of their own. She is definitely a writer that will develop and deserves to be read by a wider audience. I look forward to the next book.
Michelle Peckham, England