Title: Marshlight (DCI Matt Ballard #4)
Author: Joy Ellis
Published on: 8 July 2021
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
Marshlight is the fourth book in Joy Ellis‘ DCI Matt Ballard series.
Matt and his partner are now retired from the police force and are leading a not-so-quiet life in the Fens. Liz’s cousin Christie is a researcher associated with a famous mystery author named Auden Meeres. Auden’s health is declining and he decides to write one last book before calling it quits. His last book will be set in the Fens and he wants Christie to do some research on the local life, folklore, etc.
Matt and Liz are now Private Investigators. Frances, a good friend of Liz, asks the couple to look into the disappearance of Amy (Frances’ sister). The PIs do not find any clue leading to Amy’s whereabouts and stall the case for time being. The local police force request Matt’s help in closing a four-year-old murder case. A young woman was killed in a possible mugging-gone-bad incident. But the police could not find any evidence or suspects so the case did not proceed further. Someone is posting negative comments about the way police handled the murder case on social media. The local police force wants to put a stop to it and that can only happen when they solve the case.
Marshlight is the first Joy Ellis book I read and it definitely won’t be the last. Marshlight is quite different from the police procedurals I have read far. Since I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, I cannot comment on the series plot or the theme. But I will say this – the spotlight is on ‘manipulative and toxic behavior’ – there is no ‘crime scene’ as such; the PIs or other characters in the story do not stumble upon a dead body or witness any crime.
Coming to the psycho-babble-thingummy (sounds better than saying psychological aspect, innit?), we have one (nasty) character who plays a ‘game.’ They are toxic and manipulative, gaslights her ‘friends’, discourages them from moving further in life and has them wrapped around her finger (figuratively speaking, of course). This particular character is very annoying – but kudos to the author for all the hard work that’s gone into portraying the psychological aspects to a T.
The story alternates between Christie, Liz and Matt and, Gina. When Christie arrives at the Fens, she’s mesmerized by its beauty. She loves the quaint-village-ish atmosphere. She befriends the local bookstore employees Delphi and Tom. Christie is snubbed by the bookstore owner, Gina, the first time they meet. Soon, Christie realizes Gina is playing a game. It affects Christie as her new friends are gaslighted by Gina. Christie tries to make them understand but it only creates more problems.
Meanwhile, Matt is looking into the four-year-old murder case. After leaving the police force, Matt was feeling a bit low – PI work is not as exciting as police work. But with a new case in hand, Matt is back to his usual self.
In one of the previous paragraphs, I have mentioned there is no crime scene as such. The missing persons case is stalled and so is the four-year-old murder case. There is no crime scene to proceed, no stumbling upon a dead body or burglary in progress or whatever. The spotlight is on Gina and her behavior. So, if you are looking for a murder mystery and good ol’ police procedural-type story, you might be a tad disappointed. However, if you like experimenting with your reads and are looking for a different kind of police procedural/mystery, you might want to give Marshlight by Joy Ellis a read. The story starts on a slow note but picks up pace halfway through and the ending is really worth it!
I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.