Book Review: Beware the Past by Joy Ellis

Beware the Past - Joy Ellis

Beware the Past was June’s Criminally Good Book Club selection. A standalone novel from an author I haven’t read before.



When Matt Ballard was starting out his career, three boys were murdered in the same area, the remote and bleak Gibbet Fen. When the main suspect was killed in a hit-and-run, the killings stopped. But Matt was not satisfied that the real murderer had been caught.

Over 25 years later, Matt gets a photo in an unmarked envelope. It’s of the Gibbet Fen crime scene. And the picture was taken before the murder took place.

More photos arrive, relating to the historic murders, as well as intimate pictures of Matt’s very secret private life.


Then another murder happens with some of the hallmarks of the old case. Has the killer returned or is this just a sick copycat determined to ruin Matt’s life and reputation? Everyone around Matt is in danger as the killer plays mind games with the detective.

In an absolutely breathtaking conclusion, Matt and his team race against time to stop a vicious killer who knows no limits.


More mystery than thriller, Beware the Past has an ‘old-school’ feel to it, which I loved. I even checked the publication date to see if it was an ‘oldie’ – it’s not, it was published in 2017. But if you love the simpler style of older crime fiction, then this novel may appeal to you. When I use the phrase ‘old-school’ – I mean it in the way that, for example, Law and Order: SVU is ‘old-school’, an older production, yet highly interesting, but noticeably different from new crime shows. Beware the Past is dark in nature, and dark in location – the setting of this novel really adds a sense of desolation and eeriness to the read.

The characters were believable but I didn’t really care about them or their fate, beyond wanting the good guys to win and the bad guys to lose. Usually, I’m a fan of the detective tormented by their past, but here, I felt nothing towards Matt’s turmoil. The characters weren’t over-written, they just didn’t standout, thus the emphasis was the mystery. Ellis writes in a fluid way that means you can breeze through this novel despite the dark content; the chapters are short which allows you to sneak in another, and another, and another, till you decide you might as well go ahead and just finish the book.

The ending to Beware the Past was good, but predictable. It was due to the blurb – an absolutely breathtaking conclusion” – and the tagline – “…with a huge twist” – that I figured out the ending, this isn’t a spoiler but those phrases made me think of the most outrageous, yet possible ending, and alas that was the ending. As you can see, the phrases give nothing away but I guess, once you read so many crime books, with some of the more straight-forward plots, you’re able to figure it out. There was some originality in the ending that I appreciated, and I think it would work well played out on the screen.

This was my first novel by Ellis and I would certainly read more from her in the future. Beware the Past is a good novel, well-written, but not one I would rush to recommend because I couldn’t connect with the characters and I guessed the ending. However, my favourite thing about this novel, it’s ‘old-school’ vibe.

The great thing about book clubs is hearing everyones different perspectives on the books we read. So check out what fellow book club member, Jess, thought about the book in her review here.

This novel is available to buy from: Amazon UK

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Beware the Past by Joy Ellis

  1. Great review! I have never heard of the book before, but I’m always looking for any mystery recommendations, and this seems like something I would definitely enjoy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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