The latest installment from Erin Kelly in her collection of short stories about Broadchurch focuses on Alec Hardy's life at the beginning of the Sandbrook case. Told through the eyes of his then wife, Tess Henchard, the story dates back to April 2012. The tale opens with Tess involved in a clandestine meeting in a lay-by with her secret lover, Dave, a colleague of both herself and Alec at the South Mercia police station where they work.
We've only just been introduced to Tess on the TV series, but this book provides an in depth look at her character and the feelings of guilt that she encounters when trying to hide her affair from a husband she's fallen out of love with and her feelings of contempt due to the fact that she believes he hasn't even noticed.
Alec is as we know him, work driven and apparently emotionally shut off. He is leading the case for two missing girls in Sandbrook and just three days in to the enquiry the case becomes a murder hunt after he discovers the body of the youngest girl, Pippa, in a lake. He is traumatised by his gruesome and tragic discovery, something that Tess can sympathise with after seeing the child's body back at the mortuary. He is also as stubborn as we know him and as unwilling to take medical advice, discharging himself from hospital against the advice of a doctor who is concerned about his stress levels and wanting to run tests. He then goes missing for five hours, driving round in circles, brooding and thinking. Even in his fragile state Tess is at first reluctant to show him any affection, but the idea of him driving alone wearing an ill fitting police issue tracksuit and mulling over the case stirs up the last remnants of a love that was once there. Alec however blocks her. He folds his arms and shakes his head as she approaches for a hug. Is he really that cold? Or does he know that his wife has been sleeping with another man?
Tess notes that the Alec she sees now, is a different man to the one she fell in love with. In their early days she would massage his shoulders after a hard day at work, but now he shrugs her off.
He is certainly not emotionally shut off or distant when it comes to his child. Tess and Alec's daughter Daisy is the same age as the murdered child Pippa, a fact that hasn't been lost on Alec and he is terrified when he checks on her and in his stressed state believes that she has stopped breathing. He wakes the child and hugs her in relief when he realises she is fine. Tess recalls that he used to jump out of bed in the middle of the night when Daisy was a baby just to check that she was still alive. It's sad that we now know that he hardly gets to see the daughter that he so clearly loves.
Eventually his emotions get the better of him and he allows Tess to comfort him as he falls weeping in to her arms, but he doesn't allow himself to be beaten and broken for long, jumping to his feet and declaring that they will get justice for the families of the girls. Tess sees what first attracted her to him in the first place, the goodness of the man, his strong right from wrong ethic and his belief that good will always win over evil. It's awful that as she sees this she is already planning to leave him.
Once again Erin Kelly has provided an entertaining and insightful look at the characters we love, making this series of shorts a must have for all fans of the TV drama.
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