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by Patricia Hall
Allison and Busby, August 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0749082755

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You don't read a Patricia Hall book for lightness and humour. Instead, you get a grim slice of life in a northern English town, where it seems that the characters can never be happy.

If you've read the earlier books in the series, you'll know that the relationship between journalist Laura Ackroyd and policeman Michael Thackeray has never run smooth. In SINS OF THE FATHERS, it looks like it could be the end of the road for them.

Thackeray, a high-ranking detective, has tons of personal baggage dragging behind him, including the death of his mentally ill wife in an earlier book. In SINS OF THE FATHER he seems to have turned in on himself to the extent that he is removed from a murder case.

That case features a search for a man who has murdered his family in a remote farmhouse and then disappeared. The manhunt takes place amidst the bleak, bitterly cold Yorkshire landscape. And of course Laura is on the story as well, trying not to compromise Thackeray, whilst attempting to please her obnoxious editor and avoid the unwelcome advances of a flashy former boyfriend who is now a foot-in-the-door hack for one of the nationals and is back in town for the story.

Hall's characters progress two steps forward and three steps back. She milks the angst between Thackeray and Ackroyd, but -- for this reader at least -- still makes you care about them. Fortunately Laura's leftie grandma has been shipped off to Spain for a holiday, so we're spared the increasingly tiresome town hall machinations that have gummed up earlier books.

SINS OF THE FATHERS finds Hall right back to form after a slightly disappointing standalone. Yes, the book is what you expect from her -- a bleak and depressing setting, peopled by ground-down unhappy characters. But it feels absolutely real and is difficult to set aside. The ending's a little too pat, perhaps, but naturally there will be a lot of loose ends to explore in the next of the series!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2005

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