Secrets on the Fens
July 20, 2021

Book Review

Secrets on the Fens

reviewed by Barbara Saffer


Detective Inspector Nikki Galena and Detective Sergeant Joe Easter lead a police squad that oversees the Lincolnshire Fens, with the goal of keeping the peace and seeing that justice is served.

This can be a difficult proposition because rival criminal families, the Leonards and the Burgesses, both want to be the top mob in the region, and hostilities are easily provoked.

The animosity between the criminal clans ratchets up when homicide victims start appearing in the fens. First, the bodies of a young man and woman are found in the woods, posed like sweethearts. The couple, dressed in Goth attire, have no ID, and the police dub them Romeo and Juliet. Soon afterwards another young couple is found dead, in a boat in the Tunnel of Love. The boy and girl are again dressed like Goths and lack ID.

No missing persons reports match the deceased, and detectives Nikki and Joe speculate that the victims’ families don’t want police attention. This may in fact be the case because young people associated with both the Leonard and Burgess families are missing, and – instead of calling the authorities – the mob bosses accuse each other.

The situation escalates when Mickey Smith, a young man who was adopted into the Leonard family, goes missing. The Burgesses seem like natural suspects, but someone is anxious to divert attention from both the Burgesses AND the Leonards. An anonymous phone call to each mob family, and a note to the police, claims the perpetrator is a member of the Goth community.  

The police interview the local Goths, and a Goth woman named Nova helps them identify the Romeo and Juliet and Tunnel of Love victims. It turns out all the dead individuals were using made-up names and hiding their Goth identities from their relatives, who disapprove of the Goth subculture.

Following all possible lines of inquiry, Nikki and her team interview the victims’ families, friends, and co-workers; speak with the mob bosses; and look for clues on cemetery tombstones where the Goths hang out. 

While the police probe the fen deaths, Nikki’s mother Eve and her friend Wendy – dedicated amateur sleuths – investigate a mystery of their own. Eve and Wendy have been restoring the studio of a famous artist named Robert Richmond, who went out to paint flowers a hundred years ago and never returned. Eve and Wendy uncover hidden letters that hint Richmond was involved with a woman, and embark on a quest that has unexpected consequences.

Readers new to the series will meet an interesting array of characters, and established fans will enjoy visiting with old favorites, like pathologist Rory Wilkinson – who has a Shakespeare quote for every crime scene. 

This is an artful mystery and police procedural that will challenge even the cleverest armchair detective.

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