Iain's Leisure Reading


Reginald Hill - The Dalziel and Pascoe Series



Always on the lookout for new series to read, I came across a three book omnibus of the Dalziel and Pascoe crime series, and thought why not? It was not just three random books from the series, but books 1, 2, and 3 - perfect ! I have never been a fan of the TV series, but I know enough not to let this put me off from reading the books.

Reginald Charles Hill was born in 1936 in West Hartlepool, Co. Durham. He passed his eleven plus exam, and went to Carlisle Grammar School, where he excelled in English. Next came a spell of National Service from 1955 to 1957, and this was followed by further studies, reading English at St Catherines, Oxford from 1957 to 1960. He worked as a teacher for many years, rising to senior lecturer at Doncaster College of Education. His first Dalziel and Pascoe book was published in 1970, and ten years later in 1980 he was able to retire early to concentrate on his writing career.

Hill's father (Reg Hill) had been a professional footballer, but in those days there was not the riches in the sport that there is today. His mother was an avid fan of crime fiction, and allegedly Hill discovered the genre while fetching her library books.

Hill wrote many varied books (over 50 in total) using various pseudonymns, but he is best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe books featuring his Yorkshire detectives Andrew Dalzeil and Peter Pascoe. There were more than twenty books in this series - published between 1970 and 2009, a span of almost 40 years. At the age od 75, Hill died with a brain tumour three years later in 2012, still living in Cumbria.

Hill incorporateed a variety of techniques into his writing. He sometimes presented parts of the story in non-chronological order, and sometimes alternated with sections of the story telling apparently taken over by Pascoe's wife Ellie. He also liked to take one writer or work or art as an inspiration, and base a story around that - eg one novel was a a pastiche of a Jane Austen novel. He also borrowed from Greek myth, and even set one novel in the future with Euro Commissioner Pascoe, and the retired Dalzeil investigating the first murder on the moon. How is that for variety, (and poetic licence )!

In Wikipedia I came across a terrific quote by Hill from 1986 - one to which I say "hear, hear "! Quoting Hill :-
" I still recall with delight as a teenager making the earth shaking discovery that many of the great "serious novelists" classical and modern, were as entertaing and interesting as the crime writers I already loved. But it took another decade of maturation to reverse the equation and understand that many of the great crime writers I had decided to grow out of were still as interesting and entertaining as the "serious writers" I now revered."





A Clubbable Woman     (1970)


I read this book in Jul, 2018.

This is book 1 in the Dalzeil and Pascoe series, and also book 1 in a three book omnibus I found in a charity shop. The omnibus had a plain black cover, so I have downloaded a more appropriate picture. It's always interesting to start reading a new series, and meet a new set of main characters. Here we have an interesting dynamic of an old fashioned, untidy Detective Superintendent - D. Super Andrew Dalzeil (Bruiser Dalzeil) - paired with a smartly dressed, polite graduate - D. Sergeant Peter Pascoe. Bruiser is the opposite of subtle - a huge fat slob who scratches himself in company and is coarse and raucous, whilst Pascoe has a degree in sociology and reads books on criminology. Dalzeil thinks he is the life and soul of the party - but to many he is simply a joke. He shouts and bullies, but he has risen through the ranks, so must have something going for him, and perhaps Pascoe might indeed "learn from the master."

Pascoe seems able enough, and Dalzeil tolerates him. There are all sorts of possibilities for this pairing - let's see where it goes.

This story has a strong rugby theme. Connon (Connie) is a rugby man, formerly a talented flyhalf. He broke his ankle just before an English trial, and never got another chance. He is married to Mary, and has a daughter Jenny - now off to Uni. Connie has retired from his playing days , but is persuaded to make up the numbers for the club's fourth team, and gets kicked in the head for his trouble. He makes it home, sees his wife "asleep" on a chair in front of the TV, grunts hello, goes upstairs and collapses onto his bed. Much later, when he wakes up, he finds that Mary is not "sleeping" but dead, with a nasty bash to the head. Dalzeil, a fellow rugby player at the same club as Connie, is called in and Pascoe makes up the investigating team. Did Connie kill his wife, knowingly, or when concussed, or was it someone else ?

We meet other members of the rugby club - it's not quite wife swapping, but a lot of husbands and wives have their secrets about to be revealed. Jenny comes home from Uni when she hears the sad news about her mum, and is soon followed by her new boyfriend Antony. Jenny is stunningly attractive, and Pascoe, a single man and young, is attracted , but Antony rather spoils things. As we get to know more about Mary, we find out that she was a controlling, cruel person not above doing a spot of "blackmailing". In short, there are lots of suspects who might want Mary taken care of.

It's a well told tale with a good ending that almost doesn't answer the question "who killed Mary", but sort of does in the end. I liked Connie at the very end sitting in Twickenham with an empty seat beside him, and guess whose was the empty seat. All in all, a bit of a suprise at the end, and a satisfying conclusion after all.

It looks like it's going to be good middle of the road, classic crime series. It's a good start - we will see what follows.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















An Advancement of Learning     (1971)


I read this book in Aug, 2018.

This is book two in the Dalziel and Pascoe trilogy that I am reading - and it's also book two in the whole series. I have read in many places that the second book in a series is the tricky one to write. Book one does the introduction, but book two is the real test of sustainability. Happily Hill is a good writer, and I enjoyed reading this book.

The book is set mostly in and around Holm Coultram College of Liberal Arts and Education which is undergoing expansion, and a large statue / memorial to former principal Alison Girling is being moved to make space. Miss Girling apparently was killed in an avalanche whilst on holiday about five years ago. Simeon Landor is the new college principal. Moving the statue unearths the bones of some corpse - guess whose (clue - the bones have been in the ground for five years). Chief Super Dalziel and Sgnt Pascoe are called in. We then meet a wide cast of possible suspects - the teachers and older students. Among the teachers are two interesting characters. Dr Fallowfield, the head biology teacher, is currently suspended for sleeping with his student pupil Anita Sewell. He admits to sleeping with her, but denies undermarking her work in an effort to get her sent down. The other interesting teacher is Eleanor (Ellie) Soper - an old and very dear girlfriend of Peter Pascoe. Soon Ellie and Pascoe are back in bed together again. Dalziel thinks "good for you, Pascoe" - Ellie is very attractive !

Among the pupils, Franny Roote is head of the Student Union. He is charismatic and very successful with the ladies, organises naked orgies on the beach, and dabbles in student politics.

Soon the naked body of student Anita Sewell is found lying on the sandy beach, murdered. Did Dr Fallowfield do it, - and if so why - or was it done as part of a witchcraft student cult ? Are there two murderers - or are Alison Girling and Anita Sewell's murders connected?

It's a good story, well told, and it held my interest throughout. Mostly the story is sustained by the Dalziel / Pascoe dynamic. Dalziel is not quite as crude and bullying as in book one, but such is his character. Pascoe is an university graduate - and he has now learned to hold his tongue when near Dalziel. If they can't speak freely to each other , what kind of team is that ? But in his own way, Dalziel likes Pascoe and misses his input when he is not there. And Pascoe has sort of accepted that Dalziel is a successful detective superintendent, if not an attractive man.

Of course there are lots of twists and turns to the story, but Dalziel and Pascoe get there in the end. Pascoe then goes to say goodbye to Ellie - but need it be goodbye ? Surely we will meet Ellie again.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















An Advancement of Learning     (1971)


I read this book in Aug, 2018.

This is book two in the Dalziel and Pascoe trilogy that I am reading - and it's also book two in the whole series. I have read in many places that the second book in a series is the tricky one to write. Book one does the introduction, but book two is the real test of sustainability. Happily Hill is a good writer, and I enjoyed reading this book.

The book is set mostly in and around Holm Coultram College of Liberal Arts and Education which is undergoing expansion, and a large statue / memorial to former principal Alison Girling is being moved to make space. Miss Girling apparently was killed in an avalanche whilst on holiday about five years ago. Simeon Landor is the new college principal. Moving the statue unearths the bones of some corpse - guess whose (clue - the bones have been in the ground for five years). Chief Super Dalziel and Sgnt Pascoe are called in. We then meet a wide cast of possible suspects - the teachers and older students. Among the teachers are two interesting characters. Dr Fallowfield, the head biology teacher, is currently suspended for sleeping with his student pupil Anita Sewell. He admits to sleeping with her, but denies undermarking her work in an effort to get her sent down. The other interesting teacher is Eleanor (Ellie) Soper - an old and very dear girlfriend of Peter Pascoe. Soon Ellie and Pascoe are back in bed together again. Dalziel thinks "good for you, Pascoe" - Ellie is very attractive !

Among the pupils, Franny Roote is head of the Student Union. He is charismatic and very successful with the ladies, organises naked orgies on the beach, and dabbles in student politics.

Soon the naked body of student Anita Sewell is found lying on the sandy beach, murdered. Did Dr Fallowfield do it, - and if so why - or was it done as part of a witchcraft student cult ? Are there two murderers - or are Alison Girling and Anita Sewell's murders connected?

It's a good story, well told, and it held my interest throughout. Mostly the story is sustained by the Dalziel / Pascoe dynamic. Dalziel is not quite as crude and bullying as in book one, but such is his character. Pascoe is an university graduate - and he has now learned to hold his tongue when near Dalziel. If they can't speak freely to each other , what kind of team is that ? But in his own way, Dalziel likes Pascoe and misses his input when he is not there. And Pascoe has sort of accepted that Dalziel is a successful detective superintendent, if not an attractive man.

Of course there are lots of twists and turns to the story, but Dalziel and Pascoe get there in the end. Pascoe then goes to say goodbye to Ellie - but need it be goodbye ? Surely we will meet Ellie again.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Ruling Passion     (1973)


I read this book in Sep, 2018.

This is book three in the Dalziel and Pascoe trilogy that I am reading - and it's also book three in the whole series. I thought it was a somewhat complicated plot with two major subplots and lots of characters to keep track of, but I liked, and found a lot more interesting, the ongoing background story of Peter Pascoe, Ellie Soper, and Andy Dalziel.

Firstly to the main stories. Peter and Ellie are still seeing each other, and are off to spend the weekend in the country (Thornton Lacey ) to meet up with four old friends from college days. Peter is ever so busy at work investigating a string of burglaries where the burglar is getting more and more vicious. These burglaries and the subsequent investigations make subplot one. Peter is so busy that he has to tell Ellie that they can't join their friends until Saturday, not Friday. When they get there eventually they find three of their friends murdered, and the fourth friend Colin Hopkins missing - and eventually falsely accused of the murders. Ellie is furious at Peter (and his boss Dalziel) saying they should have been there on the Friday, and the murders might then have never happened. Equally, of course, Peter and Ellie might be dead too ! This multiple murder is subplot two. D.Super Derek Blackhouse is in charge of the murder investigation and Peter Pascoe is involved as a witness, and semi involved as a police detective. Strangely Peter Pascoe is impressive on his home turf, but is less impressive here. He loses his temper, doesn't think clearly, and is generally lagging behind the local police - they have local knowledge, Pascoe does not. When we have two subplots we usually expect these stories to be related - and so it proves in this case, eventually, and to a minor extent.

The culprit behind the string of burglaries is found first, and then events unfold, there are false trails, there is danger for Pascoe, and eventually the multi murderer is identified - but thanks more to Blackhouse than Peter Pascoe. All in all, complicated and too many characters I thought.

However, I did like the back story of our main characters private lives. Peter Pascoe's promotion has come through - he is now a DI. Initially it's not clear if the Ellie and Peter relationship will last. Peter seems keener that Ellie, they talk of old times not the future, and Ellie has a caustic tongue and thinks of Dalziel as a big fat pig. Eventually eveything moves on when Dalziel takes Ellie out for dinner. He wants to know Ellie's intentions. He explains that he knows that he is an old dinosaur but he sleeps well because he is very good at his job. Peter represents the new breed of policeman, and should go far. Dalziel thinks he may evetually end up calling Peter sir. But, he says to Ellie, Peter cannot progress with a girlfriend who refers to the police as pigs. Instead of storming off, Ellie matches Dalziel candour. Yes, she will probably end up marrying Peter. Now we know it's a serious relationship. And then jumping ahead, dancing a slow number with Peter, and feeling so safe in his arms, Ellie asks a series of questions, and one of which is to ask Peter to marry her. Peter answers the questions, and somewhere in the multiple answers is a "yes" to the marriage proposal. And so everything changes, and Peter and Ellie are a team. Ellie has even come to sort of like Dalziel. I think also, Dalziel and Pascoe have also come to sort of like each other.

What will the future hold for Ellie and Peter ? With his promotion, will Peter have to move away , breaking the Dalziel and Pascoe team ? Of course we must read on. I hope for a simpler main plot, next time.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















A Pinch of Snuff     (1978)


I read this book in Oct, 2018.

This is book five in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, and unfortunately I seem to have miscalculated and read it before book four, "An April Shroud." In book three Peter Pascoe and Ellie had agreed to get married. Presumably they did get married in book four, for now, in book five, they have been married for about a year. They sometimes have some very serious arguments, when Ellie calls Peter a "fascist pig," Peter retaliates and they both end up upset. So far they have soon made up, but are we seeing the first signs of future problems? Not many fictional policemen, who work long anti-social hours, end up with long stable happy marriages. (Dalziel's wife left him, and told him by text, for safety). On the other hand, there is good news for Peter and Ellie by the end of the book. Is Ellie pregnant ?

This book has more about Pascoe than Dalziel. It opens with Peter at his dentists. He has known Jack Shorter for ages, is on first name terms, but wouldn't really call him a friend. Anyway, Jack asks Peter to stay for a drink, and soon we discover why. Jack has been to see "blue" pictures, soft porn, at the local Calliope Kinema Club, and is unsettled by a sequence in a film "Droit De Signeur" where a woman on screen is badly beaten up. Jack, a dentist, saw a gloved hand punch the woman's mouth, saw the damage to her jaw and teeth, and thought it was too realistic for just acting. Peter could hardly just ignore what he had been told. And so we have been introduced to the two main plots of this story - the dentist's story, and the blue films story. Jack Shorter is later accused of molesting an under age girl - 13 year old Sandra Birkill, who is now pregnant. Her father Brian, and Brian's neighbour Charlie Heppelwhite, beat up Jack Shorter. It's all a bit of a mess. Meanwhile all is not going smoothly at the Calliope Club. Local residents, (but not the two old ladies next door) are protesting about the "dirty films" cinema in their neighbourhood - and matters come to a head when the joint owner Gilbert Haggart, is also beaten up. When he dies it becomes a murder inquiry, and Pascoe is put in charge of the investigation. Dalziel tells him to concentrate on this. However Peter cannot just ignore the possible on screen assault, and makes inquiries. Strangely, Dalziel knows of this, but just lets Peter get on with it. At the end of the story we discover that Dalziel knew a lot more about the porn films than he revealed to his DI. He was allowing Peter Pascoe to go wading in, and stir up things. He also seemed to be allowing Brian Birkill to go wading in too.

I thought the book started well, went off the boil a little for a while, but then it all came together at the end when Dalziel reappeared. Sandra Birkill was not the young innocent she appeared to be, Jack Shorter was hardly purer the pure, and unravelling the "snuff" movie plot also unmasked a corrupt policeman. Finally Jack Shorter's murderer was identified - but Dalziel had to explain it to Pascoe. Not really the closest of team work for Dalziel and Pascoe.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Deadheads     (1983)


I read this book in Nov, 2018.

This is book 7 in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. I hadn't managed to get a copy of book six yet, so I went straight from book five to seven. I ended my comments on book 5 by asking "was Ellie pregnant ?" Indeed she was, and here we meet Peter and Ellie Pascoe, and little Rosie. Ellie's maternity leave is about over, but she manages to do some left wing picketing of a posh school, parading up and down with placards denouncing private education. This is how she comes to meet Daphne Akkermann, whose daughter is at the placarded school. Ellie is leaving and sees Daphne outside in the pouring rain, getting very wet. She offers her a lift. "Yes please" says Daphne, and then she sees the placards - but it's heavy rain, so she accepts the lift anyway. And so begins an unlikely friendship with two articulate beautiful women scoring class points off each other, but each could do with a new friend. There is more Pascoe than Dalziel in this story - Andy Dalziel is mostly away at a conference - and there is more Ellie Pascoe than Peter, but it all works well and I enjoyed reading this tale. Jumping ahead slightly, Daphne's husband Patrick becomes the subject of a police investigation, and Daphne accuses Ellie of being a police spy. Their heated, passionate argument is terrific writing by Reginald Hill.

There is a great element of "did he, didn't he" in this story. People around Patrick Akkermann seem to die, and he seems to always be the one to benefit. Are the deaths mere coincidences, or is Patrick not what he seems ? This question is there right at the start of the book when, years before, we meet Florence Akkermann, rich and living in Rosemount house - large and with extensive gardens. Florence is not the nicest of people, but she loves her garden, and her roses. Her niece, a single parent who never said who fathered her son Patrick, comes to look after her when she has a heart attack. Young Patrick doesn't say much, and is very introspective - but he comes alive when he sees Florence "deadheading" some roses, and has the process explained to him. "Remove the old to make way for the young". Florence gives Patrick her sharp knife to try deadheading, and then is alarmed at the look in young Patrick's eyes. Did he stab Florence, or did the roses scratch her. Florence was dead of a second heart attack. We now jump to the present. Patrick has married Daphne, and they live and own palatial Rosemount, inherited from aunt Florence. It's a mystery how they can afford the upkeep - but Patrick loves his roses, and is now an expert gardener.

Dandy Dick Elgood is a ladies man, a businessman and chairman of Perfecta, a local plastics company. This is where Patrick works as an accountant. Elgood calls to see his friend Dalziel. He is worried sick - he thinks Patrick may be a killer. Dalziel gives the problem to Peter Pascoe. Elgood then says he made a mistake, but Peter's suspicions have been aroused. How come so many of Patrick's life's difficulties disappeared with a convenient death. He is serene (is this innocence ?), worries about nothing, and something good always turns up ! Hill clevery plays with us and our suspicions. First we think he must be a mass murderer, and then we think no, that's preposterous. I won't spoil the story be saying which viewpoint prevails at the end of the book.

Dalziel returns from his conference, and shows why he is in charge - solving the burglary case that was puzzling Pascoe and company. Company in this case includes sergeant Wield, and a new young police cadet Singh who has to bear a lot of banter about his colour, including from Dalziel. I guess that is how it was in 1983. One of the police crew is gay but is keeping this a secret - this also is how it was in 1983.

All in all, a good, well told story, with lots of interesting background on the main characters private lives.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page