Police in Bradfield struggle to identify the body of a young woman found in a canal. While DCI Michael Thackeray, newly returned to work after leave to recover from an injury, is busy getting the investigation underway his girlfriend Laura Ackroyd, the features editor for the local paper, becomes involved with reporting on the local football team’s unexpected success. Eventually (and not at all surprisingly) the interests of the two meet when someone identifies that the dead girl was seen at a function held at the football club. Laura becomes even more embroiled in the case when she runs across a young woman who is an illegal immigrant and this gets her into trouble with her boyfriend.
The only other Thackeray and Ackroyd book I’ve read is Devil’s Game which is two books after this one in the long running series and I must say there’s quite a difference between the two. In my review for Devil’s Game I remarked on how refreshing it was to come across a series book that didn’t require prior knowledge of the characters and events in their lives but the same cannot be said for Death in a Far Country. A good deal of it is devoted to what everyone would say at an official inquiry that was being held into events which took place in a previous book and I found this quite distracting as I didn’t know what had happened and couldn’t work out much apart from the fact Michael Thackeray must have been injured. The rest of the plot was perfectly serviceable but I have to say it held few surprises and tackled its disturbing themes, including human trafficking, fairly superficially.
The characters are all quite believable though I didn’t really warm to any of them particularly. Michael Thackeray seemed almost eager to think the worst of his girlfriend and was quite unable to see things from her point of view though he expected her to see his point of view always. I thought the author was struggling to know what to do with Laura who at times was a strong-minded woman and at other times seemed particularly insipid. But my impression was tarnished a bit by the fact that quite a lot of the scenes involving Laura were to do with the events of the previous book that I had no knowledge of.
I know it’s difficult for writers of series to maintain the balance between keeping old fans happy and engaging new readers who haven’t read all the previous books but I thought this book did a pretty poor job of achieving that balance. However, having thoroughly enjoyed the later book I read I will give Patricia Hall another go.
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My rating 2.5/5
Narrator: Michael Tudor Barns; Publisher: ISIS Audio Books ; ISBN: n/a; Length 8hrs 40mins; Setting:England, present-day.
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Death in a Far Country has been reviewed at Reviewing the Evidence
Bernadette – Thanks for this. You touch on a very interesting subject; how much backstory to give as a series moves on. I agree that it’s a delicate balance. For instance, I very much enjoyed Simon Beckett’s Whispers of the Dead, but the novel gave, I thought, a little too much information about the previous novel in that series, Written in Bone. It devoted more time to it than necessary, and gave spoilers. On the other hand, as you say, you want to be able to catch up on a character’s story, too. Not an easy balance…
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