Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1990 and was the 11th book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. It is the fourth Dalziel and Pascoe book I have read since Reginald Hill death last year. Bones and Silence is 524 pages long but I read it in very quick time because it is full of great characters, humour, red herrings and plot twists.
Andy Dalziel witnesses a murder across the street from his back garden, and although he is inebriated at the time he is quite sure of what he saw. The victim’s husband local builder Peter Swain is the culprit, but Swain has a story to tell that explains what Dalziel saw-it was a tragic accident. Meanwhile an anonymous letter writer has confided in Dalziel that she plans to commit suicide, and Peter Pascoe and his wife Ellie have helped rope in the Fat Man to play God in a medieval Mystery Play. The devil is to be played by none other than chief murder suspect Peter Swain. Reginald Hill takes the reader on a series of twists and turns, disappearances, and intrigues involving leggy blondes, drugs, doctors and nurses, and jobbing builders.
This is a brilliant read and a reminder of Hill’s superb writing ability and huge talent. I don’t think, despite the long running television series, he received the recognition he deserved. But I should warn those who dropped their books, gasped and were shocked and stunned by Gone Girl’s telegraphed plot twist that this twenty three year old story has has some real surprises. It also has a lot of laughs and in the wonderfully politically incorrect Andy Dalziel, one of the most unique characters in crime fiction.
This was the house he’d moved into when he got married and never found time or energy to move out of. On that very kitchen table he’d found his wife’s last letter. It said ‘Your dinner is keeping warm in the oven’. He’d been mildly surprised to discover it was a ham salad.
But there are also a wealth of interesting minor characters, and some social commentary that belies the age of the book.
But he hung onto the land. A wise move, when you see what has happened since between the village and the town. To this government, a Green Belt is a martial arts qualification for survival in the cabinet.
Reginald Hill is one of those writers to whom I return when I want to recharge my enthusiasm for crime fiction.