Caught by the current, her body tumbles this way and that in the black waters of the River Maze, dragged inexorably forward, her long dark hair trailing out behind her. For days she continues on, unseen, making a lonely passage through villages and marshes, until, at last, her journey comes to an end in a tangle of debris washed down with the flood waters.
BY DEATH DIVIDED is the 14th book in the Thackeray and Ackroyd series. Laura Ackroyd is a journalist - her partner Michael Thackeray is a DCI. Fitting the double central characters, BY DEATH DIVIDED has two main threads - a missing Asian woman and her husband (which Thackeray is investigating) and domestic violence (which Ackroyd is reporting on). Both of these threads - probably predictably - meet up as the book draws to a conclusion. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with the predictability of this joining up, as it's done with a fair amount of aplomb and some darn good reasons.
The book has a third central character - Mohammed Sharif is a Policeman, Asian and Muslim background, but living a very non-traditional (and unpopular with his family) lifestyle; he is tightrope walking between his life and that of his family, and his connection with the missing Asian woman (his cousin) and her husband. Some of his "thought processes" probably provide the only minor quibble with the book - he's frequently put into a position of asking questions / doing things that he says to himself "will get him banned from his extended families homes". Yet he goes back. Minor point, but by the second time around it stuck out like the proverbial.
BY DEATH DIVIDED touches on a lot of current day themes within the the context of both main threads - the domestic violence issues discussed include how hard it is to build cases against perpetrators when family members won't talk; how the violence is often inexplicable and rapid - but also how there can actually be an explanation behind it. The investigation into the missing woman works it's way through the differences in lifestyles of traditional and non-traditional Asian families - and how that fits into a wider British community; the problems associated with perceptions of religion; the complications that terrorism brings to communities who are too easily tarred with a wide ranging brush; the difficulties in understanding arranged marriages for those outside.
Nothing in the book is jarring or controversial, but it covers a lot of ground very competently. Built into the narrative is an ongoing development of the relationship between Thackeray and Ackroyd. There's some background to that relationship that's briefly hit upon in BY DEATH DIVIDED, and it would be interesting to know what that is - but it's not going to stop you from diving into this long-running series at this point, if that's what it takes to get you started.