FALSE WITNESS
Patricia Hall

 


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Allison and Busby, August 2005
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Thackeray of the West Yorkshire police is a man with a lot of emotional baggage from his past. Twelve years earlier Thackeray came home to find that his wife had drowned their baby son and then attempted suicide. Both sets of grandparents blamed Thackerayís drinking and neglect of his wife for these events. Now a recovering alcoholic and living with journalist Laura Ackroyd, Thackeray seems to be getting his life back together again, when he receives a phone call saying his wife is in hospital and is on the brink of death after a heart attack. This drags up all the emotional turmoil of the past and distracts him from his work.

His work at the moment is the murder of the headteacher of a local school for disturbed children. A recently expelled pupil at the school has been arrested by DCI Hutton, who conducted the investigation while Thackeray was away working elsewhere. On the surface the evidence suggests itís an open and shut case, but Hutton is racist and the boy is black and a number of people at the school donít believe the boy capable of such violence. There is also the added complication of a concerted campaign to have the school closed down by residents of the up-market area in which the school is located because they claim itís lowering the tone of the neighbourhood and lowering property values.

Thackeray is initially content to accept the results of the investigation but Laura starts pressuring him to look into the matter more closely. This puts strain on their relationship. After his Detective Sergeant also raises concerns Thackeray reluctantly starts checking up. He not only uncovers fresh evidence, but he also finds one of his Detective Constables is on the verge of lodging a complaint against DCI Hutton for racism. Hutton is also trying to stir up trouble for Thackeray over his past which pushes him to the brink of drinking again.

The first two or three chapters of FALSE WITNESS are slow going. The sentences are over long and convoluted. Perhaps the author was trying to give us just a little too much information here. However, if you can get past them the book does pick up after that.

FALSE WITNESS is a rather gloomy book. Thackeray is cranky, uncommunicative and self-absorbed. His sergeant, Kevin Mower, loyal in the extreme, covers Thackerayís back and does most of the investigating. Thackerayís girlfriend, Laura is long suffering in the face of his irascibility. While Laura, Mower and Thackerayís Superintendent are supportive and likeable, Thackeray is not. And the racist police officer, DCI ďLenĒ Hutton seems to be little more than a stereotype.

Itís a shame in a way that so much of the book dealt with Thackeray and his personal life, because it detracted from the investigation of the murder which was much more interesting than the angst and the conflicted internal dialogue of Thackeray.

FALSE WITNESS is the 10th in the Michael Thackeray and Laura Ackroyd series.

Originally published on Murder and Mayhem, January, 2006

 

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