The Dead of Winter

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Patricia Hall’s THE DEAD OF WINTER is set in Yorkshire, England in the dark cold of pre-Christmas. After a young woman is found dead in her car in a reservoir, Michael Thackeray, Chief Inspector of the Bradfield Police, is given the task of investigating her death. His inquiries lead him to believe it was not accidental.

Concurrently, reporter Laura Ackroyd, who is involved in a difficult romance with Thackeray, is sent from Bradfield to Arnedale, a neighboring town, to work as an editor—a cover for sniffing out the rumors being spread by a local radical rag about the chief editor of the ARNEDALE OBSERVER. The rumors are affecting the paper’s circulation and losing money for its owners.

While covering a story about the protest of the use of certain farmland, Laura discovers another story involving a real estate scam. Her probing brings her ill will from the locals and innuendo concerning a less than honorable event in the past of Thackeray, a native of Arnedale. As fate would have it, the death of the young woman and the scam are related, bringing Laura and Thackeray to both professional and personal loggerheads.

What is fun and unusual about THE DEAD OF WINTER is that throughout the book, the integrity of one of the protagonists—a police investigator, no less—is in doubt, and the reason is shrouded in secrecy. So, while trying to figure out “whodunit,” the reader is also wondering if Thackeray did, and if he did not, what DID he do?