I finally signed up for an AudibleUK subscription. (UK seems to have more titles I want than the Canadian site.) I took the plunge so I could order the new police procedural written by Joy Ellis and narrated by Richard Armitage. I enjoy a good murder mystery and this series set in England’s Fens seemed right up my alley.
It intrigued me, too, that Armitage believes the main character, Rowan Jackman, to be “tailor-made” for him. (See this recent free interview — if the link takes you to your home-country Audible, just choose AudibleUK at the top of the page to access the interview.) As Armitage tells it, “He’s a sort of loner, he’s quite a quiet man but he has an aggressive side to him, he lives alone, he’s a thinker, he’s contemplative, he’s kind of thorny, and there’s something a little bit wild about him which I really liked.” (Ooh! Armitage can be a little bit wild too? Tell me more!) Jackman even has a nephew that he dotes on, similar to RA with his real-life nephew. I do think that Jackman is missing Armitage’s quick sense of humour, but this isn’t really a genre known for humour.
The book begins with the body of a teenage girl found washed up on a remote beach. Another teenage girl is missing. And the detectives are also asked to re-open the cold case of a young girl who went missing almost ten years ago. Jackman and his partner, Marie Evans, must deal with an urgent search to potentially save someone in danger and work to uncover clues about the dead girl on the beach, all while juggling directives perhaps influenced by people in power and skirting illegal underground operations that keep coming to the foreground.
For the most part, I enjoyed the story and the characters of Their Lost Daughters — and are there ever a lot of characters! You really notice this in an audiobook and feel for the narrator, even though they are all necessary to the plot. Armitage commented that he “nearly rugby-tackled [the author] to the floor because there were so many characters.” Seems like an odd comment for a guy who only really played rugby for one role, but he must have just finished reading Ellis’s book — that’s a description that’s used near the end.
I wondered as I was listening if maybe Armitage doing so many audiobooks in such a short space of time and in various studios might affect the quality a bit. Near the beginning of the book, I had trouble telling some of the voices apart, although this got better as the book went on. I think that it took Armitage a bit of time to really get the different characteristics of the voices going, but he did succeed admirably overall. I also noted that the editing of the voices (consistency of timbre, etc.) seemed to slip a bit in one of the chapters in the middle of the book. Other than that, though, I enjoyed Armitage’s performance and the audio quality.
Joy Ellis has created a lasting team with Jackman and Marie Evans. We get to know their personalities quite well and Marie’s backstory, but I wish that there were more back story on Jackman. I’d like to know why he lives alone, for example, and whether he finds it suits him or whether something is missing. Their Lost Daughters is actually the second book in the series, so I may have to get the e-book of The Murderer’s Son to find out more. I enjoyed the book and the main characters enough to give some of Ellis’s other books a try — especially the next two that Armitage will be narrating. (I wonder why Audible didn’t have him start with the first book in the series?)
While I found the story interestingly complex and I liked the pacing, especially towards the end, I have to admit that there were points in the story where I was driving along yelling at my car sound system. There were at least two or three major leaps where logic and/or good police work were not what took the story to the next discovery. It made no sense that the particular avenue of inquiry around the middle of the book would have been pursued. Intuition would not have been sufficient, in my opinion. In fact, the next chapter even starts, “Jackman had no proof… little or no justification…” To me, that just says that the author couldn’t find a way to get to the next place she needed the story to go without making a leap of logic. There was also a loose end that I felt should have been tied up at the end, but it wasn’t, leading me to suspect that a logical explanation couldn’t be found.
I also found it strange that the police force in the book used so many seemingly unpaid civilian experts in their investigation. Is that actually how the police force works in England? I don’t think that that would happen here, what with clearances needed and potential privacy issues.
However, all that being said, Their Lost Daughters did hold my interest and make for a good listening experience. It was an interesting and complex story, with a pair of detectives that I would be happy to spend more time with. The pacing was good, with excitement building steadily towards the conclusion. And, of course, once he got going, I appreciated Richard Armitage’s narration of the book and would happily support a TV adaptation with Armitage in the role of Rowan Jackman, if that were to happen.