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by Patricia Hall
St Martin's Minotaur, March 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0312321538

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Bradshaw is like so many towns in the north of England. A once thriving community that depended on full employment at the mills, is now down to a very few, and the biggest employer of those, the Earnshaw mill, is in trouble.

Pakistanis had been brought in to work the mill several years earlier, because they were the only ones willing to work so hard for such low wages, and now the union is fighting to keep wages up, the lay-offs down, and the people employed. However, racial tensions are an inevitable part of daily life. The white and Muslim communities touch, but do not mingle.

The choice is between laying off workers or selling the mill completely, and the surviving members of the Earnshaw family are torn between the two. DCI Michael Thackeray is called out to the scene of a suspicious death. A young man has been found face down in a farmer's field.

Meanwhile, Laura sees two frightened Asian women being surrounded by a bunch of racist yobs. Laura chases the young men away, and tries to persuade the women to come to the police station and make a complaint. They refuse.

"'No police,' the younger woman said. 'They won't do owt. Ever since New York this has been happening all t'time. T'police don't want to know.'''

Apparently, neither does Laura's editor. He doesn't want to run a story on racial tensions in town. The powers-that-be would rather ignore trouble in town. The dead young man turns out to be one of the Earnshaw sons. He apparently was killed elsewhere and dumped over the fence into the field. And his girlfriend has gone missing.

Hall skilfully weaves the two investigations together. As Ackroyd and Thackeray come closer to the solutions, their personal lives seem to reach a point of decision as well. Ackroyd's not-too-kosher dad makes an appearance, and Grandma Joyce, though more and more feeble all the time, does also. This is the tenth book in the series.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2005

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