In the book of French Grammar and Usage, by Hawkins & Towell on page 247-248, it is given that
But if the more distant event does not have continuing consequences, a pluperfect form of the verb will be used in French:
Il avait arrêté de fumer depuis plus d'un an quand il est tombé malade
He had stopped smoking for more than a year when he became ill
Whereas the simple past and compound past tenses refer to events completed in the past from the perspective of the speaker or writer, the pluperfect describes events completed at some point even before these past events:
La police laissa une balise pour indiquer où l'accident était arrivé
The police left a marker to show where the accident happened/had happened (Pluperfect - an event which occurred prior to the police marking the spot)
However, I'm confused: when talking about two events in the past, one is in a distant past then the other, should the one closer to the present be in a past tense (as in the second example) or in the present tense (as in the first example)?