A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES: REGINALD HILL

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Book Awards, Dalziel and Pascoe, England, review

51TrOIn6sFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_I finished reading A Cure For All Diseases, Reginald Hill’s superb completion of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sandition a few days ago. 515BTE113AL._Following on from The Death Of Dalziel I have read 1210 pages of Reginald Hill’s writing and am not bored by his creations, Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe. 

This novel is a quirky pastiche of Sanditon in which the novel is both finished and updated, in a fairly respectful but very modern manner; if respect is possible with Fat Andy featuring prominently in the action. Andy Dalziel is recuperating in Sandytown after getting in the way of a bomb in the previous novel in the series.

When Tom Parker, his wife Mary and their children Minnie, Paul, Lucy and Lewis are looking  for  Willingdene and end up driving their hybrid 4×4 into Stompy Heywood’s tank trap in Willingden they become house guests of the Heywoods. Stompy, an old rugby playing mate of Andy Dalziel’s, is affectionately known as HB, Head Banger from his  frequent refrain that he “might as well bang my head against a brick wall”.

When their vehicle is repaired they reciprocate the Heywood’s kindness by inviting Charlotte Heywood to spend some time with them at Kyoto House in Sandytown, Home of the Healthy Holiday. There Charlotte, Charley, like Austen’s character observes and notes the habits and idiosyncrasies of a large cast of characters. A very large cast……

Lady Daphne Denham, formerly Daphne Brereton, whose two ex-husbands are now dead; she obtained wealth from her first husband Howard “Hog” Hollis and a title from her second Sir Henry Denham. She is involved in business dealings with Tom Parker, a follower of alternative medicine, and is pursuing romantically Dr Lester Feldenhammer, who runs the Avalon Foundation. 

Lady Denham, lives with a distant cousin and companion, young beautiful Clara Brereton at Sandytown Hall, while Denham Park is occupied by her young niece and nephew by marriage Sir Edward Denham and Esther Denham.

Then there is Tom Parker’s younger brother Sidney, a city financier, Gordon Godley, a healer, Miss Lee an acupuncturist, Nurse Sheldon, Harold “Hen” Hollis, Ollie Hollis, Alan Hollis, landlord of the Hope and Anchor, Tom Parker’s sister Diana, an “invalid”, her friend Mrs Sandy Griffith and Franny Roote. Enough….enough, that is enough suspects for any crime fiction novel. 

Peter Pascoe will arrive after the first murder along with DS Edgar Wield, and DCs “Hat” Bowler, Shirley Novello and Dennis Seymour to investigate, only to find Andy recovering his strength in more ways than one.

A great part of the charm of this novel is the jocular way it imitates the style of the epistolary novel, but of course updated to the twenty first century. Charley instead of writing letters e-mails her observations to her sister Cassie in Africa, while Andy is given a digital recording device to dictate his innermost thoughts as an aid to his recovery. He names the device “Mildred”. Therefore most of the novel can be classified as a dialogic epistolary novel. 

The wit and wisdom of Fat Andy plays tribute to an 1897 epistolary novel when we are told that local Police Sergeant Whitby’s nickname is Jug. 😉

A Cure For All Diseases is a superb light hearted read that does not take itself too seriously. 

Dalziel let out a sighing groan, or a groaning sigh, the kind of sound that might well up from the tone-deaf man who has just realized the second act of Gotterdammerung is not the last.    

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Comments
  1. Norman – Glad you enjoyed this. Like you, I never get tired of Dalziel and Pascoe. And It shows Hill’s versatility that he was able to take this approach to a story as well as the sometimes darker tone his stories can have.

    • Norman Price says:

      Margot, I think he wrote a few dark ones and then decided to give readers something lighter. On this side of the pond I don’t think he has been regarded as highly as his near contemporaries, Colin Dexter, Ruth Rendell and P.D.James. I don’t know why?

  2. TracyK says:

    Very interesting, Norman. I did not know anything about this novel, since I am so far behind in the series and planning to read in order. I look forward to all these books, even with their great length.

  3. Norman Price says:

    TracyK you commented you had reached Recalled to Life, a reworking of the famous Profumo Scandal that helped bring down the Conservative government in 1963.
    The next book is Pictures of Perfection which is a light hearted Jane Austen pastiche, followed by the much darker The Wood Beyond.

  4. Reh Hill was a great Austen fan, and also, I think, one of the best British crime writers of the past fifty years. His last book, The Woodcutter, is one of his finest.

  5. […] Crime (Fiona Walker), Reviewing the evidence (Sharon Wheeler), Reactions to Reading (Bernadette), Crime Scraps Review (Norman) and Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie) among […]

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