Their Lost Daughters by Joy Ellis Review
146,000 words, 331 pages, 9 hrs and 46 mins to read.
Published by Joffe Books
4.23 out of 5 on Goodreads
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5
I recently noticed that a lot of Joy Ellis’s books were included in my audible membership and being the lover of gritty British crime thrillers that I am, I was intrigued!
Their Lost Daughters is (according to Audible’s reading guide) the first in the Jackman and Evan’s series, one of the follow up series to Joy Ellis’s DI Kikki Galena series and is meant to be one of the standouts from her entire bibliography. It had been pushed heavily by Audible, including a fully fleshed out promotional page and they even got Richard Armitage to read the series. Sounds very promising right? Well, I quickly gave into the hype and started my listen. Did it live up to the hype?
But also no. It’s complicated, let me explain.
The story follows two detectives, Jackman and Evans, when they receive an early morning call to investigate the death of a young girl discovered on a desolate beach. Not long after, they discover a drugged up girl aimlessly wandering around a field, desperately seeking information about a certain Emily. However, the mystery remains: who is Emily?
In addition to this, there was a girl long missing, her mother’s unwavering belief that she is still alive drives her to keep searching and with what happened she’s back in the picture. Could there be a link to a girl who vanished years ago?
With four girls involved – either missing or deceased – their families demand answers.
This was an interesting premise that took some time to get going, but when it did, I was gripped by the intertwining and layered story, with realistic and interesting twists that felt like it could actually happen. Even with some rather extreme and dark turn of events, I felt like I was experiencing a true crime account and I couldn’t stop listening. It wasn’t without its problems though, and I don’t think veterans of the genre will be as impressed as it does fall into to formulaic tropes with some rather flat main characters.
What’s Bad About Their Lost Daughters
So right off the bat, I’ll start with the series’ titular characters. I thought they were pretty bland. Jackman feels like a caricature of a grizzled, stoic British detective. He doesn’t do much or say much beyond exactly the right thing and the right time without any real moral or professional range. He was fine for the story and it worked, but I would have loved to have seen a main character with a little more… character. Evans almost fell in the same boat. She was a cookie cutter character made more exciting with shallow interests and backstory. She rides a motorbike and her husband died. I feel like I’ve seen this exact character many times before.
Also Joy Ellis’s writing can sometimes be a little stale. What I mean by that is the prose doesn’t quite flow as well as some other authors. It’s a lot of, this happened, then this other thing happened. It’s not bad, it feels like her style and may not be her strong point, but it’s something I did pick up on.
I will say, though, these characters are both expanded quite thoroughly later in the series. They start to feel like they are actual people, with depth and both have a pretty rich history with exciting events happening to and around them. If you’re not willing to read much further into the series to get more interesting main characters, then this might be the limiting factor for you. Otherwise, there is a lot of good.
So the main characters were fine, they did the job they had to because the main part of what makes this story good is the plot and the atmosphere, which I’ll get onto now.
What’s Good About Their Lost Daughters
Ok so main characters and slightly weaker prose aside, lets get onto what I liked! The plot was brilliant. I felt grounded and real but also dark and brutal and sometimes poetically tragic. It was brilliantly layered and, despite starting slow, it built into this hugely engaging story that I really couldn’t stop listening to. It hits on many themes, of family and loss and even examines and critiques the structure of the police force and people in positions of power. It’s hard for me to say much else without getting into spoilers as a lot of the great parts happen later in the book, but it gripped me from the start and would not let go until right at the very end.
During the whole story, Joy Ellis does a great job at building a realistic and atmospheric world. It’s set in the Lincolnshire Fens, near to where I grew up, so I could really imagine a lot of what she was describing with first hand experience at some of the bleak, flat landscape that lends itself very well to a story like this.
Also, I really liked Richard Armitage’s performance. Sometimes the voices were a little too similar but his stoic, raw reading fit the theme and narrative well. And he has such a great voice. I’d recommend listening to the audio version.
Overall, this is a really solid crime thriller. The good is really good and the bad is forgivable, especially if you plan to read further into the series. If you can pick this up on Audible with a current membership then I’d highly recommend giving it a go. If not, then this will appeal to British crime stories with plot heavy twisting stories and great atmosphere.