Archive for the ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ Category

In the past few weeks I have read three thought provoking John le Carre novels; The Night Manager [1993] Our Game [1995] and Absolute Friends [2003] all of which I enjoyed immensely despite reservations about their politics. 

635878802254689284-The-Night-Manager-AMCThe TV series based on John le Carre’s book The Night Manager reached it’s climax last week. As with many television adaptions of a novel you realise how good the author is when the TV version plot starts to deviate from the original. The classic case of this phenomenon was the Dalziel and Pascoe series based on the novels of Reginald Hill which when the original plots were exhausted, and some of the great characters abandoned, was a shadow of the earlier programs. 

In The Night Manager’s tv adaptation the alterations in the plot and the changes in chronology, geographical locations, and the sex of Burr had worked quite well up to the last episode. In the final episode the novel’s plot was totally abandoned with the result that much of the political message was lost. Of course  the female audience was was catered for with scenes featuring Tom Hiddlestone, and if you have an elegant beauty such as Elizabeth Debicki constantly wandering around in floaty dresses and expensive lingerie you are likely to have a television success on your hands. But I did not approve of the scenes where her character Jed was water-boarded, this was totally unnecessary. There is enough violence towards women in real life without having to watch this sort of thing on TV.

A lot of le Carre’s emphasis in the novel was lost, and although I disagree with most of his politics, I felt the novel’s ending should have been retained. If a book is good enough to put on television surely the key message should be retained. But overall this was a gripping series, but I would respectively request there is no Night Manager Two, or we may face another Broadchurch Two debacle. 

gameOur Game was the next book le Carre wrote and apparently it was not as successful as some of his previous books, only reaching number 3 on the NY Times bestseller lists.

I have to admit finding most of this novel hysterically funny, although I am not sure le Carre intended it to be a black comedy. Perhaps I was amused by the fact that most of the book is set in North Somerset rather than the North Caucasus.

Bath University, Bristol, the Mendips, and Priddy, where retired civil servant Tim Cranmer tries to batter his old friend Larry Pettifer into submission are fairly familiar to me.

The story begins with the disappearance of Larry, a double agent whose dedication to left wing causes includes the seduction of Tim’s mistress the beautiful young Emma. Tim has inherited a run down estate with a failing vineyard from his uncle, and more luckily a large amount of money from an aunt. He and Larry were at school together at Winchester. In the past our security services were overrun by the alumni of Westminster, Greshams, Marlborough and Eton, which did not work out too well. 

The only possible benefit in having these people as spies was that if they were thrown into the Lubyanka, however badly they were treated the food was bound to be superior to that served up in an English Public school in the 1950s and 1960s.

The police investigate Larry’s disappearance……

Yet who did they think he was? -Larry, my Larry, our Larry?-What had he done? This talk of money, Russians, deals, Checheyev, me, socialism, me again- how could Larry be anything except what we had made him: a directionless middle-class revolutionary, a permanent dissident, a dabbler, a dreamer, a habitual rejector, a ruthless, shiftless, philandering, wasted semi-creative failure, too clever not to demolish an argument, too mulish to settle for a flawed one? 

Strangely this passage from a 1995 novel instantly made me think of one of today’s leading British politicians. 

Tim is questioned by both the police and his old employers in the security service, as they suspect he is involved in a financial scam.

In a minute you’re going to tell me it’s all in Checheyev’s weaselly imagination, he forged Larry’s signature. You’ll be wrong. Larry’s in it up to his nasty neck, and for all we know, so are you. Are you?

Tim naturally begins a convoluted search for a missing 37 million quid and the beautiful young Emma, both of which have been expropriated by Larry and Tim’s former agent Konstantin Abramovich Checheyev.

The money is intended to help the oppressed Chechen and Ingush people in the Caucasus. Tim’s search takes him from to Bristol, Paris, and Moscow and eventually to the conflict in the Caucasus. John le Carre views the situation there as very black and white but in these far away conflicts things are usually shades of grey. I wonder what the author felt when nearly decade after this novel the events took place at a place in North Ossetia called Beslan. 

Absolute Friends, le Carre’s first post 9/11 political novel also had me laughing out loud on many occasions, and perhaps again I wasabsolute not supposed to find this novel so amusing. The narrative tells of the long running friendship between Ted Mundy, son of a British army officer, conceived in India and born in Pakistan on partition day; and Sasha, a son of Nazi Germany brought up in the GDR. The friendship begins among the revolutionary students of West Berlin in the turbulent 1960s, and ends in ………..I won’t spoil the ending.

Endings are not John Le Carre’s strong point, and however nuanced the narrative he seems to want to leave the reader feeling somewhat bruised, and hopefully convinced that the Americans and British are responsible for every evil in the world. 

Mundy becomes a secret service agent by chance after his experiences in Berlin.

“What is the purpose of our revolution, comrade?”

Mundy had not expected a viva voce, but six months of Ilse and her friends have not left him unprepared. ” To oppose the Vietnam War by all means…To arrest the spread of  military imperialism….To reject the consumer state….To challenge the nostrums of the bourgeoisie…To awaken it, and educate it. To create a new and fairer society ….and to oppose all irrational authority.”

” Irrational? What is rational authority? All authority is irrational, arsehole.”

The Soviets classified these fellow travellers as useful idiots, and unfortunately they are still around today even in the UK waving Mao’s Little Red Book and forgetting the millions who died under Communism, and it’s close relative National Socialism.

Sasha’s father was a Pastor who became a Christian Nazi, and later decamped to the obnoxious West from the GDR socialist paradise, installing a deep personal and political hatred in his son. The story explores both men’s relationship with their fathers, and the secrets they uncover. 

This is a long, but highly readable book, that has many complexities as the friends frequently lose touch and then meet up again after several years and catch up with events. Mundy is never sure which side Sasha is on, or even at times which side he is on. 

As a prized Stasi agent, Mundy receives a fat retainer, bonuses and incentive payments. The conventions of the trade, however require him to turn those sums over to his true masters, whose remunerations are more modest, since London unlike the Stasi, takes his loyalty for granted. 

These books are well written, and are fascinating reading perhaps enhanced by our knoweledge of recent events. 

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I read Pierre LeMaitre’s Camille [reviewed here], Death’s Jest-Book by Reginald Hill, The Ghost by Robert Harris, and only just started the Petrona Award winner The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. 

Death’s Jest-Book is another big blockbuster of a novel being both a sequel to Dialogues Of The Dead, and also having several new intriguing sub-plots. The fact that two 600 page books can be read without too much of a struggle is a tribute to one of our greatest crime writers, and the wonderfully quirky characters created by Reginald Hill. It was quite sad to say goodbye, even temporarily, to Andy Dalziel, Peter Pascoe, Ellie, Wieldy, Hat Bowler, “Ivor” Novello, Franny Roote, and their relationships and problems.

The Ghost by Robert Harris is a brilliant read, but not quite my cup of tea, I much prefer his historical fiction books Fatherland, Enigma and An Officer And A Spy, simply because modern politics seems still a bit too raw as we still face the problems discussed in The Ghost. 

The Ghost is roped in to rewrite the autobiography of an ex-British Prime Minister called Adam Lang, who despite the usual disclaimer that any resemblance to actual persons is entirely coincidental bears a strong likeness to a recent British politician. The real Lang was a master of illusion, won three general elections, and was surrounded by political colleagues some of whom spent more time plotting his demise than running the country. 

In the book the previous “ghost” writer has met an untimely end apparently falling off the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Our new ghost, a man who does not know anything about politics, and who is never named, discusses the manuscript he is to rewrite with Amelia, Lang’s personal assistant.

‘Honestly? I haven’t had so much fun since I read the memoirs of Leonid Brezhnez.’ She didn’t smile. ‘I don’t understand how it happened,’ I went on.

‘You people were running the country not that long ago. Surely one of you had English as a first language?’

Author Robert Harris fell out with New Labour, and our ex-PM, over the Iraq War, a conflict which may well go down in history as one of the greatest strategic mistakes since Cornwallis marched his army into Yorktown. But who knows………..

 

HummfliesDoD Reginald HillThe weather in April was very good and that meant less reading, and more travelling around the glorious Devon countryside. Roaming around the scenic Jurassic coast at Budleigh Salterton and Seaton, and the stark  beauty of Dartmoor, as well as the idiosyncratic market towns, we constantly realise how lucky we are to live in the South West of England. I should get employment with the Devon Tourist Board.

I read the two strong contenders for the Petrona Award, The Hummingbird and The Human Flies,  and as light relief Dialogues Of The Dead by Reginald Hill.

Dialogues is one of Reginald Hill’s door stop novels at over 550 pages, but it is an easy read [the print size is large enough to be read by septuagenarians, a vital matter for this reader]. There is a laugh on every page, and  just when you think you have identified the murderer, he or she is bumped off. I did get it right in the end, but only after my first choice met an untimely end. Dialogues is classic Reginald Hill, erudite with a Dickensian cast of characters joining with the usual suspects of Dalziel, Pascoe, Ellie, Wieldy and playing a big part in this novel DC “Hat” Bowler. Shirley Novello is recovering from a gunshot wound which she received  in the previous novel Arms And The Women, so Hat becomes a vital member of the investigative team, who are always one step behind a deranged serial killer. But of course Reginald Hill’s take on the serial killer novel is very different from most other writers.

‘ I’m just thinking, shouldn’t we concentrate a little harder on solving this case, sir, rather than finding out who the mole is?’

‘Nay, that’s down to you, Pete. This is one of them clever-cut cases. Old-fashioned bugger like me’s right out of his depth. I’ll fade into the background and let you call the shots on this one.’

Oh yes? thought Pascoe sceptically. Previous experience had taught him that having the Fat Man in the background tended to block out the light.

The news this week of the death of Ruth Rendell was very sad. Rendell’s first book From Doon With Death was published way back in 1964, and it featured one of my favourite detective teams of  Reg Wexford and Mike Burden. For many years I read every Wexford book that was published, and many of the psychological thrillers written under the name Barbara Vine, but unfortunately there isn’t enough time to read everything and I moved on to other authors, while still respecting the subtle plot twists and interesting characters that featured in her books.

In recent years British crime fiction has lost Reginald Hill, P.D. James and now Ruth Rendell, all three were giants of the genre they will be greatly missed.   

cc2zagrebricciardiarmsMy reading in February included A Colder War by Charles Cumming, a very good spy thriller, and The Lady From Zagreb, the tenth book in the Bernie Gunther series. My review of Philip Kerr’s  novel will appear on Euro Crime in due course. I also got about halfway through the excellent Viper by Maurizio De Giovanni, but we were going away for a few days and Viper’s cover includes an image of a dead prostitute sprawled over a bed.

I therefore decided to take  Arms and The Women [2000] by Reginald Hill to read at our luxurious bed and breakfast. This is a 611 page reg hillblockbuster, but a brilliant read, and I am now totally engrossed at page 237 by those quirky characters, Ellie Pascoe, Peter Pascoe, Andy Dalziel, Wieldy and Novello.

My reading over the last few years of Reginald Hill’s body of work has convinced me he is one of the greatest crime writers produced by this country since the war. I wonder if the failings of the later Dalziel and Pascoe television series have contributed to him not being rated as highly in some circles as some less deserving writers. That pesky WH Smith poll still really annoys me; Peter James 1, Val McDermid 3, Ian Rankin 4, Ruth Rendell 13, P.D.James 18, and Reginald Hill 48! 

Unfortunately once the television series lost Edgar Wield and Ellie Pascoe it never had that special quality retained in the novels. 

I haven’t read the Dalziel and Pascoe books in order, but when I started in 2010 to read them again after a long break I began with the  last in the series Midnight Fugue [2009], a pastiche of the TV series 24. In 2012 I read On Beulah Height [1998] and then went back to Deadheads [1983] and Underworld [1988]. I had a Dalziel and Pascoe addiction by now, and they became my holiday reading material of choice. In 2013 I read Bones and Silence [1990], Recalled to Life [1992], Pictures of Perfection [1994] , and The Wood Beyond [1995]. Last year I jumped forward, perhaps put off a little by the sheer bulk of some of the next books in the series, to The Death of Dalziel [2007] and A Cure for All Diseases [2008], a pastiche of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon. Reginald Hill did love his Jane Austen.

You would think you might become bored reading so many books by the same author with the same characters, but Reginald Hill alters his approach to each novel keep each book fresh, vital and full of humour. 

I will return to Viper, which is also a very good read, when I have finished Arms and the Women.  

Warren Clarke

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Book Awards, Dalziel and Pascoe, England

51a6twGKBUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_I had read several of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe books before the TV series began in 1996, and when Warren Clarke appeared for the firstDALZIEL AND PASCOE-DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD time on the screen he was exactly how I had envisioned the character of Andy Dalziel from the books.

It is with great sadness that I learned today that Warren Clarke had died at the age of 67. He was a fine actor and played many parts during his long career but he will always be remembered for his portrayal of the gruff Yorkshire detective.

My condolences to his family, he will be greatly missed.

Whenever I read a smart punchline in the Reginald Hill books I always imagined them coming from Warren Clarke.

       I’ll have beef as well, luv, said Dalziel. ‘But I’ll have mine roast with Yorkshire pud and lots of spuds.’  

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.    

51a6twGKBUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_When I want to read for pure enjoyment with no thought that I should be reading this or that to keep up with what is occurring in reg hillthe world of translated crime fiction, I turn to Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe long running series.

I suspect I am addicted to these books and in making a brief appraisal of the series I might butcher some Tolstoy: “All dull books are alike; each Dalziel and Pascoe is interesting in its own way”. I thought of Tolstoy because a lot of the Dalziel and Pascoe books are of of epic length. Luckily the Harper paperback versions have a large font or else the almost 600 page length of many would be off-putting.

In the last few years I have read:

Deadheads 1983, Underworld 1988, Bones and Silence 1990, Recalled to Life 1992, Pictures of Perfection 1994, The Wood Beyond 1995, On Beulah Height 1998, The Death of Dalziel 2007, Midnight Fugue 2009 and have just begun A Cure for All Diseases 2008 [the opening chapters of which are extremely funny].

I regret not reading the books in order, but I may well go back and fill in the gaps.

The Death of Dalziel [Death Comes For The Fat Man in the USA] weighing in at 598 pages was published in 2007 the year of the terrorist bombings in London. When Police Constable Hector, not the brightest copper in Mid -Yorkshire Constabulary’s employment spots a man with a gun in a video rental shop in Mill Street that stocks Asian and Arab stuff, Dalziel and Pascoe get called in. The property has been flagged by CAT [Combined Anti-Terrorism] but Dalziel’s lack of confidence in Hector’s ability to tell the difference between a gun and a lamb kebab mean he and Pascoe get caught in the blast when the shop  blows up. Pascoe is protected behind the fat man’s vast bulk, but Andy Dalziel is severely injured and spends the majority of the book in a coma.

Pascoe is determined to track down the perpetrators of this outrage and other connected attacks carried out by vigilantes. The reader is given more information than the police concerning the reasons for attacks committed against those who preach, or are perceived to preach violent jihad. Some of the questions concerning treatment of our troops in Iraq, revenge, hatred, personal loss, and fear of the other are cleverly raised with great care in this tense story.

The Death of Dalziel was a very enjoyable and thought provoking read, with the serious subject matter pleasantly distracted by the wise words of St Andy. 

Bump into your best mate coming out of the Black Bull, that’s coincidence. Bump into him coming out of your wife’s bedroom, that’ s co-respondence.     

P1030783Crime Scraps was started in September 2006, and I don’t know what is the average life of a blog, but I think it is well into adulthood by now. My original plan was to have a record of the books I had read, and to bring to the attention of any readers two series of detective books. The first was the ten book Martin Beck series Story of a Crime by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, of which I had read about six during the 1970s and 1980s, and I had searched second hand book shops for the remaining books with little success. The second was the Salvo Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri which I had recently discovered. 

I remember three years later charging into a WH Smith in the company of a distinguished translator of Scandinavian crime fiction, and finding only one of his books on display at the back. But within a few months Scandinavian crime fiction was all over the shelves in every type of retail outlet that sold books. And now we have had various Wallanders, Sarah Lund, and numerous other Nordic shows on TV, as well as Montalbano and Young Montalbano representing Italian crime fiction and Spiral from France with its distinctive Gallic approach.  I therefore decided to go back and spend a few weeks reading some of the crime writers who had me hooked years ago, and have read thirteen books since my holiday reading roundup.

I read and scored with star ratings:

Feast Day of Fools**, Pegasus Descending**, and Sunset Limited*** by James Lee Burke,

A Guilty Thing Surprised** and Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter*** by Ruth Rendell,

A German Requiem*** and The One from the Other*** by Philip Kerr,

The Hanging Garden*** by Ian Rankin,

Recalled to Life*****, Pictures of Perfection***** and The Wood Beyond*****by Reginald Hill,

The Scent of Death*** by Andrew Taylor [winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger]

The Windsor Faction***** by D.J.Taylor [reviewed at Euro Crime]  

So what did I learn from reading and re-reading these books. Well some authors were not as good as I remembered and others made a fresh impression that encouraged me to read more of their output. Some of the writers produced such worthy messages that it made up for their over convoluted repetitive plots. But above all I came to the conclusion Reginald Hill was an outstanding crime writer coming up with new fresh ways to write interesting crime novels. I particularly liked his Dickensian Recalled to Life, his very clever Austen like Pictures of Perfection, and one that I had read a while ago Midnight Fugue, a parody/pastiche of the TV series 24 Hours.

Andrew Taylor’s The Scent of Death was well written, with a very atmospheric  setting in 1777 Revolutionary New York, and a good read, but was it any better, and did it have as strong a moral message as  the other contenders for the Ellis Peters Award. This was the third time Andrew Taylor has won this award and I sometimes think that winning the award is a major factor in repeat wins. I am not singling out Andrew Taylor for any criticism, because there are transatlantic authors who regularly win awards every year, and when I have read a sample of their work I have found it far less worthy than The Scent of Death. Even a great Fred Vargas fan such as I still cannot understand the thinking behind her win in 2009 over a strong field which contained books by Johan Theorin,  Arnaldur Indridason, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo and Karin Alvtegen.

I have some new translated crime fiction to read and hopefully will be able to produce some full reviews, but I will end my catch up with a quote from Reginald Hill’s Recalled to Life, which begins with a murder in that watershed year of 1963, when an American president was assassinated, a British government fell, and a young innocent went off to university. 

Up to nineteen sixty-three it was still possible for thinking men to believe in progress. A just war had been fought and won, and this time the result would be, if not a land fit for heroes, at least a society fit for humans. We who grew up in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies and came to our maturity in the dreadful ‘eighties have seen the destruction of that dream without ever having the joy of dreaming it. Recalled to Life; Reginald Hill 1992     

ehitdcI read six more crime fiction books during a cold miserable February and they varied between historical thrillers and psychological mysteries. pickofthemonth2012

 

Into The Darkest Corner: Elizabeth Haynes-[To Be Reviewed next week]

A superb  psychological thriller and a debut novel which I literally could not put down as the author racks up the tension towards the conclusion.

 

Pierced: Thomas Enger translator Charlotte Barslund- A disappointing book for me with too many pages, too much switching of perspective, and 119 chapters. I will be reading number three in this series and hoping the choppy style will be smoothed out a bit. 

The Bridge of Sighs: Olen Steinhauer– A good police procedural set in a fictional post-Second World War Eastern European country that had been “liberated” by the Red Army. Four more books await me in this interesting series.

Bones and Silence: Reginald Hill– The 1990 CWA Gold Dagger winning police procedural from one of England’s greatest crime writers. 

Beast In View: Margaret Millar- This brilliant psychological mystery won the Edgar in 1955, but unfortunately shows its age with outdated attitudes. Nevertheless a great read with a fantastic twist and a glimpse of the past. 

A Man Without Breath: Philip Kerr- [The review to appear on Euro Crime]- Another fine book in the Bernie Gunther series.

And my pick of the month was another close run thing but Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes was something a bit different from my recent reading and therefore was my February choice.

51+wvaeaGYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_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.