Patricia Hall: Sins of the Fathers
(12th in Thackeray/Ackroyd series 2005)

>>A young boy running for his life through the snow,
his sister hovering between life and death in intensive care:
it seems that another father has been driven to the edge
and turned on his family when DCI Michael Thackeray
reluctantly enters a family home turned blood-stained charnel house.
But as he and his lover Laura Ackroyd dig deeper the tragedy
becomes darker and much more dangerous. While Thackeray
seeks to find where the children’s father has gone, Laura begins
to ask just who he is. This seems to have been a family with no
past long before its future was so brutally taken away. Who is
Gordon Christie? Who is he hiding from? Is it only the police
who are looking for him? And who seems to be obstructing
Thackeray’s inquiry at every turn, driving him to the brink
of resignation and Laura to despair.<< (publishers blurb)

Having to say that I do not think this is a very good book saddens
me. It does so because the Thackeray/Ackroyd series is one which,
as a whole, I hold in extremely high regard. Hall is a writer who’s
sociological awareness is acute, and who’s political outlook is one
I have found congenial. She has entered into areas where other mystery
writers do not go, and done so exceptionally well. Municipal corruption,
race, prostitution, immigration, industrial relations, abortion – her books
have covered these kinds of area at least as well as, and in some cases –
municipal
corruption especially – better than any other contemporary Britmyst writer.
Laura Ackroyd is a good heroine, her grandmother possibly my favourite
character in contemporary Britmyst and Thackeray himself interesting.
The police sub-cast – Mower and Ridley and others – have grown.
‘Bradfield’ is a brilliant conception well-realised.

But.

There are three major problems with this book…

1.) And this to some extent applies to all Hall’s books and prevents
her ascending to the highest level. It is all shade. Very dark, very gloomy,
very depressing. Laura’s granny, who can be relied on to provide at
least a little light, does not appear. The subject matter is wholly grim.
Laura and Michael’s relationship is wholly grim. There is no pleasure
whatever in this book.

2.) Laura and Michael’s relationship continues to be in crisis. It seems to
have
been this way almost since it began. But it is my belief that you can only
spin this storyline so far before it becomes repetitive for regular series
readers. It has become so for me. I have rather lost interest.

3.) But the great problem with this book is the subject matter. It is
no spoiler to say that we are in spooks territory (any Britmyst reader
with a brain will guess that from the blurb :)). And inevitably this leads
us to Ireland. I have written before that Ireland is a fatal area for any
Britmyst writer to head for. Well spooks territory is very dangerous too.
We come back to writing of what you know (unless you are a great
writer), or at least – thanks Sharon – of what you can research. But you
can’t research spooks and Ireland. So we are left with the usual
stereotypes.

I am being harsh because I do come to Hall with high expectations. The book
is decently plotted and conceived. But it is still a disappointment. I would
recommend Hall to anyone – but not this one. Go back and read the series
from its start. I can only hope that the next in the series – and this is
not the most recent – sees her re-discover her form.

(November 2007)

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