Iain's Leisure Reading

Short cuts  : Home Contents Photos Ramblings Contacts Whats new  : : :  : : :

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






















An April Shroud     (1975)


I read this book in Dec, 2018.

This is book 4 in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. As usual I am trying to read these books in the correct sequence, but somehow, when I had both books four and five on my shelf, I read book five before this one. Thus I already knew that Peter Pascoe and Ellie must get married in this book - and in fact the book opens at their wedding reception which Peter wanted to be a quiet affair, but somehow Dalziel is there and giving a speech. Peter and Ellie then go off on their honeymoon to Lincolnshire and so, for a change, that leaves Dalziel as the main character of this story. Peter does appear again however, at the very end of the story when unexpectedly he and Ellie come across Andy Dalziel in a very unusual setting. I didn't see this meeting being set up by the author until it happened and it took me by surprise. It's part of a lot of very good humour in this story.

Andy Dalziel's wife left him quite a while ago, and of late he has been feeling a bit low - lonely, introspective, wondering at the futility of life - mildly depressed in fact. Instead of taking pills he decides to take a holiday (unusual for him) and so sets off in his car after Peter and Ellie's reception. He is not aiming for anywhere, just heading in a direction that takes him away from where he works. It is very rainy, and to avoid the traffic he has switched to the side roads. The surrounding fields are waterlogged, flooded in places, and there are big puddles on the road. Dalziel drives through one of these puddles, but it is deeper than he thought, and the car conks out. He is stranded. He puts on some wellingtons always in a policeman's car, and sets off to see if he can find habitation from which to phone for help. And so he comes to be standing on an ancient hump back bridge trying to get to a nearby big house (Lake House ) when he hears splashing sounds. A row boat appears with a beautiful woman sitting serenely in the stern. They are towing a coffin ! And further behind is a punt with the funeral party. Thus we and Andy meet Bonnie Fyfield - the beautiful widow who is burying her husband Conrad. Conrad's ancient father is also there - Herrie Fyfield, the poet. Daziel is never slow in coming forward, and so, to cut a long story short, he invites himself to Lake House where they dry his clothes - and instal him in Conrad's bedroom. Bonnie and Conrad apparently had separate, but connecting bedrooms.

Part of the story is a variation of a familiar one - a large country house owned by impoverished people who cannot properly maintain it - and there have been a few deaths at Lake House and insurance claims. An insurance claims investigator turns up - but ends up dead. Dalziel does not disclose that he is a policeman, but with his blunt speaking he gets on well with the old man Herrie, drinks his whisky, and makes himself at home. He is to stay until his car is fixed, which is OK with him, and he had no better holiday ideas. Against all the odds Andy Dalziel also gets on very well with Bonnie - Andy's luck has changed. He is no longer depressed. Somehow, though, he is becomming compromised. The thefts and deaths at Lake House are not his case, not in his region, but he is an excellent, and very senior detective, and soon works out what may be afoot. Why then does he not share his thoughts with the local police ? His layers of body fat are laid bare - what can Bonnie see in him, and she has just buried her husband and yes, he died in an unfortunate accident ? Where do Andy's loyalties lie ?

Peter Pascoe and Ellie turn up at the end, all is resolved, and a murderer is in custody. But what of Andy and Bonnie ?

As the story progressed it got more and more interesting as layers were peeled away to reveal deeper mysteries. In short, I thought it was a terrific story, a definite page turner, and very funny in places.






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






















A Killing Kindness     (1980)


I read this book in Sept, 2019.

This is book six in the series, but somehow I found it difficult to find a copy in the charity shops I frequent, and by the time I read it, I had already had to read seven books from later in the series. In this story we discover that Ellie is indeed 5 months pregnant, but still into militant feminist action groups. Inscrutable Sergeant Wield of the ugly face is a secret homosexual. He keeps this very well hidden and stays in the background - is this why such an able, gifted policeman is still a sergeant ? Peter Pascoe joined the force later but is a DI, and destined for higher things. Wield's partner is far away in Newcastle and their relationship is now breaking down. Wield erupts in fury, but does this far away, and keeps his anguish to himself - he really is a strong character. Another strong character is D Chief Super Andy Dalziel. He is a way over the top non PC caricature really, but it's very well done, and with great humour. About the middle of the book, when Dalziel is deliberately antagonising a "do gooder" lawyer he confides to Pascoe "If they think me only a boozing, fat, racist caveman they sometimes underestimate me, and make a mistake." If it is all a part he is playing, he plays it well.

The story is about a sort of serial killer - the choker - mostly killing young women almost out of regret ("A killing kindness") and laying out the bodies in respectful repose, but not all the the killings are alike. Afterwards the local newspaper gets an anonomous phone call with a quote from "Hamlet". There have been four deaths, and Pascow calls in voice profilers to see if it's the same man making these calls. A complication is that there is a fair in town, and a gypsy encampment near by beside a local small airport / glider club. One of the mums of a victim calls in a gypsy medium to get in touch with her daughter, and Wield just happens to be there with a hidden recorder at the seance. The press find out, and soon the headlines in the local press are that the police have called in help from a medium. Dalziel is not best pleased. The medium is "Madam Rashid" / Rosetta Stanhope, the apparently gifted daughter of the gypsy Lee and Petulengro families. Sadly her daughter too is soon another victim of the killer. One of the supects is a young man of the Lee family, and Dalziel wades in to do a search (no warrent) of the Lee caravan which finds stolen goods. Lee attacks Dalziel, and ends up in hospital. It's police brutality says one of Ellie's feminist campaigning lawyer friends. Undaunted, Dalziel tells Pascoe and Wield to carry out a police raid of the whole encampment. I doubt this would happen today.

It's not the best story in the series, but still it's a good read. Peter Pascoe sort of cautions his suspect, and gets him to confess freely, and Peter is scribbling down this confession, rather than interrupt things and try to start again down the station officially with audio recording. Wield finds Pascoe, and simply has to interrupt the confession. Ellie has been taken ill. Wield takes over - "get him to sign each page I've written" says Pascoe, before he dashes off. Will the confession hold ? I've said enough, but there is justice of sorts by the end.

It's a very stong series, and this is a worthy member. The banter between Dalziel, Pascoe, and Wield is every bit as good as ever.






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






















Exit Lines     (1984)


I read this book in Oct, 2019.

This is book 8 in this excellent series of Dalziel and Pascoe novels that I have been trying to read in sequence, but not quite succeeding. Here, Peter Pascoe's and his wife Ellie's young daughter has just reached her 1st birthday, but Ellie has had to rush home to help her mum. Sadly her dad is getting senile, and Ellie wants to see how bad it is, and if her mum is coping.

The story opens with the death of three old men. Mr Parrinder (71) had apparently collapsed when walking home over a bitterly cold, wet field, and died of exposure. Robert Deeks (73) was lying in his own bath, but the water was red with his blood. He had been attacked and soon was to die. Mr Westerman (70) was cycling home when he was run down by a car, apparently driven by Arnie Charlesworth, the bookie, but in the passenger seat was a very drunk Andy Dalziel. However, the question suggested right at the start is who was actually driving. Was Andy Dalziel really the driver, and his part in Mr Westerman's death is being covered up. And what is Andy doing in the company of a notorious local bookie ? Is he giving and getting favours ?

I guess if you didn't know the characters you might suspect that Andy Dalziel was a corrupt cop. I personally never entertained that thought. And so, for me, one of the surprise endings wasn't really much of a surprise at all. However the case against Dalziel is built very cleverly. He does seem to be doing lots of shady things !

Of course, the whole story is all a lot more elaborate and complicated. There is both a posh club and an old folks' home on Paradise Road, and lots and lots of characters - some of them are rich, successful men with a lot of influence and friends in high places, and some of them are old and dying, and victims of fading memories. There is drug smuggling, and an undercover operation. For once Peter Pascoe doesn't know what Andy Dalziel is up to, and this results in an inevitable but sad case of a breakdown of team work. Amazingly a new, idiotic, gormless PC Hector unknowingly saves the day of the drug raid. He was completerly clueless but found the missing drugs - although he didn't know he had.

There was a bit more humour than usual in this story. Reginald Hill is a good writer, an his skills extend to humourous writing too.

Finally sergeant Wield plays his part in the story. He has not yet come out (as being a homosexual) - but is debating if he really should. He does come out - but not in book 8.

All in all, this is another winner from Reg. Hill - even though I never fell for the Dalziel might be corrupt teaser. Some Edinburgh police thought John Rebus himself was a "dirty cop", but he never was. It's a common theme that maybe not all our heroes are always squeaky clean. The picture is even more cloudy in spy stories.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Child's Play     (1987)


I read this book in March, 2019.

This is book 9 in such a good series - it features D. Super. Andy Dalziel and DI Peter Pascoe, is set in Yorkshire, and was written by Reginald Hill. I started off loving the back story, but not really caring all that much about the main story plot. However the last few chapters of the book made me change my mind, and in the end I thought it was a good story, but a bit complicated.

The book is mostly about prejudice against black people and gays in the 1980s. It's the book where Sgnt Wield comes out - hitherto he has kept his homosexual life a secret. He comes out to fat, slobbish Superintendent Dalziel thinking he will get the worst over to start with. He had tried to speak to intellectual, sympathetic DI Pascoe, but he was was always too busy. Later Peter is mortified that he was not there for Wield. Apparently both Dalziel and Peter's wife Ellie knew that Wield was gay - but not Peter. Why not ?

The main story is that when rich Mrs Geraldine Lomas dies, she leaves an estate of about 1.5 mil (worth quite a lot in 1987) with only token gifts to her brother and sister, and a little to her nurse/companion Keech, but mostly 0.5 mil each to three charities. There are two interested and now disappointed families - the posh London based Lomases, and the uncouth, country Hubys. Both are very upset. They had been sucking up to Geraldine for years - now to no avail. Geraldine's son went missing in the war, but she never accepted that he was dead. Her estate was first to be retained for the missing son, but paid to the charities if he didn't turn up by his 90th birthday. The charities want to get their money this year and contest the will. There is a young member of the Lomas family - Rod - and a young member of the Huby family - Lexie. Lexie is mostly quiet and shy, but she reads a lot, and self educates. Everyone underestimates Lexie - including me, until all is revealed in the final chapter.

The book opens with a strange prologue. Is the spirit of the long lost son visiting his mother, and why does she call him a black devil ? Actually she does worse - but we don't realise this until the end of the book.

There are two murders for Dalziel and Pascoe to solve. A stranger turned up at Geraldine's funeral, called out "Mama" in his distress, and then disappeared. Is this the missing son ? Then his murdered body is found in a ditch. Lot's of people have motives - reasons for not wanting a true heir to turn up. The second murder is that of a young man - a friend of Wield's ex male partner. He had been staying with Wield, and yes, eventually they did end up in bed together. The young man had been possibly about to blackmail Wield by "outing" him. Surely Wield would not murder to preserve his private life - but he has connections to a murder victim, and so has to explain the position and so "come out".

The real hero of the book is Andy Dalziel - he is way, way ahead of Peter Pascoe throughout, and solves the murders, but at the every end of the book Peter Pascoe redeems himself just a little. Peter Pascoe is suposed to be a future high flyer, but here he is worrying that his progress might be stalling - he is still a DI, and not yet a DCI. I have read later books in the series and know if he makes DCI, but I'll not spoil things by saying any more.

I liked Dalziel outwitting DCC Watmough who appeared an obvious shoe in to replace the retiring Chief Constable. He did this by revealing that Watmough was conducting a purge against gays in the police force. I won't reveal why this worked. Years ago, Watmough had black balled Dalziel from membership of the local Gentleman's club. It is wily local solicitor Thackerey who shows Dalziel how to do this - even getting Wamough to unknowingly second Dalziel's new application. Interestingly the food at the club is not generally regarded as being very good - "school meal like stodge." Dalziel had said it was a pity that he wasn't accepted initially - of course, only he thought the food was really good.

I also liked Peter Pascoe's chats to his baby daughter Rosie. These chats helped Peter get his thoughts in order, but hopefully, in so doing, he has not done subliminal damage to Rosie. We also meet beautiful, six foot five inches tall, arts director Eileen Chung. We will meet her again in book eleven.

All in all, the book is a good page turner with two strong leads in Dalziel and Pascoe, lots of humour, a sound murder mystery, and a good back private lives story.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Under World     (1988)


I read this book in May, 2019.

This is book 10 in ever such a good series that I am really enjoying. It has excellent stories told by a master of his craft, and four really strong characters in Sgn. Wield of the ugly and inscrutable face, just recently revealing himself to be gay, Ellie and DI Peter Pascoe, constantly arguing, why did Ellie ever marry a policeman, and above all, massive Andy Dalziel, Superintendent, local head of CID, coarse, but such a good detective.

Let's deal with the main plot first. The book opens with Peter Pascoe trapped underground by a roof fall, and Andy Dalziel trying to free him. "Why do you keep asking if I am awake", says Peter. "If you'd died, I could stop digging" replies Andy. They went underground chasing a young Adonis - Colin Farr. We now go back to recent history, and learn who Colin Farr is, and at the very end of the book we are back to Peter trapped under ground.

The setting is the close knit mining village of Burrthorpe where the police are hated from miners' strike times. Young Tracey Pedley goes missing, and is never found. Her dad's best friend, Billy Farr, husband of May, and dad to Colin, had taken Tracey to Gratley Woods to look for berries, and took her home afterwords as usual, but for the first time left her to walk up the path to her door, and didn't go in with her. She then disappeared - could it have been Billy who abducted her ? A local child killer had recently committed suicide, and the police (DCC Watnaugh) say he abducted Tracey, but is this correct ? Colin returns from sea, goes down the pit again, and fights anyone who maligns his dad. He is very quick with his fists. He is also graceful, charming, has an animal magnetism, and has a way with the ladies. Ellie Pascoe agrees to take a stand in job lecturing to miners, and there she meets Colin, and they begin a "friendship" "What am I doing ?" asks Ellie, but she can't help herself.

The body of a shift supervisor is found buried underground in Burrthorpe mine. South Yorks Police (DCI Wishart) are dealing, but then they work out that the body is under Mid Yorks soil, and so they manage to transfer the case to Andy and Peter. Soon everyone (Dalziel, Pascoe, Ellie, and Wield) is in Burrthorope, and the story unfolds.

Andy Dalziel has a reputation for making things happen. Things look serious when he is followed through town by a mob of police hating miners. He leads them to their social club, but it is closed. "There is no where in Yorkshire where I can't get a drink" says Andy, he bangs on the door, it opens, and the mob follow him in, not to attack Dalziel, but to wet their whistle. A tricky situation expertly defused.

The Peter and Ellie relationship is a very strange one. Politically, he is left of centre, but she is extreme left wing, militant, "all police are pigs." Ellie is highly intelligent, fearless, and usually bests anyone in a debate. In full argumentative flow, Peter thinks his wife is magnificent, and he loves her all the more. Lots of times we learn of Peter's love for Ellie - but find little evidence of her love for Peter. What is Ellie playing at, with her pupil, Colin Farr ? Is she in control of her feelings ?

There is a lot of humour in these stories, and many of Dalziel's one liners are classic. He finally gets Peter promoted to DCI by threatening to resign, or more accurately threatening never to resign until Peter's promotion comes through.

I started off annoyed that this story was a bit disjointed - but it all came together as the writer planned it would, and it all made perfect sense at the end. Dalziel and Co breeze in, stir things up, and at the end, old mysteries are mysteries no more.

In summary, such a good read, such a good series !






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Bones and Silence     (1990)


I read this book in January, 2019.

This book (book 11 in the series) won the gold dagger award for the best crime novel of the year, so I don't really need to say any more as to whether it is good or not. I don't know how you can say that any book is the best, but this is indeed a very good story, with very strong sub-plots, and all the characters spark off each other. Fat Andy Dalziel is a bit of a caricature. Yes, he is fat, overweight, and he drinks to excess, is blunt to the point of rudeness, but he is a more complex man than that. He crashes around like a bully, but he can creep up on you too when he wants to. Peter Pascoe is the opposite - refined, clever, a graduate. He is destined to go far within the police ranks - but untimately may be held back by his leftie, police hating wife, Ellie.

The story opens with Peter returning to work after three months recuperation - from a leg injury incurred when chasing a criminal. Peter has now deservedly been promoted to a DCI - he became a DI in book three. Peter and Ellie have a young daughter Rosie - but that is all we hear about Rosie. Peter and Ellie quarrel a lot. Ellie almost had an affair , but didn't sleep with whoever it was - in my reading, I have jumped from book 7 to book 11, and when I read the missing books I will know whom it was. Accordingly, there is a bit of distrust in the air. Peter doesn't let Ellie see some police letters, and Ellie doesn't show Peter the article she is writing. When eventually he reads it in the local paper, he is too late to save someone in distress. Peter and Ellie had earlier been advised that they can't be half open with each other - either 100 %, or not.

For Dalziel the story opens with him being sick into a bucket in his kitchen. There is a long list of all he had been drinking, but he blames the French pure spring water he had tried. Any water from France must be "iffy". Anyway, he looks out of his kitchen window at a neighbour's house, and sees a semi nude young woman retreating from two men, one of whom is holding a gun. Dalziel sprints to the rescue, but arrives too late to save the girl. Peter Swain, the man with the gun, claims the girl was committing suicide, and he was trying to get the gun from her when it went off. Peter is a local landowner - blessed with respectable old money, but little of it.

To everyone apart from Dalziel, it looks as if it really was suicide, but Dalziel is determined to prove that Swain is a murderer, and indeed a multi murderer. Who is right - Dalziel, or everyone else ?

The interplay between Dalziel and Pascoe is done very well. There is a lot of humour too. We also see Sgnt Wield, who is gay, emerging as a strong character in these stories.

Finally, we meet the main subject of this story, Ms Eileen Chung. She is a powerhouse of a woman, a friend of Ellie's and is directing a local mystery play that will processs through the town. Chung has charisma to excess - you get energy just standing next to her. It must be a really powerful charisma, because she persuades Dalziel to play god in her mystery play !

Very finally, some poor soul is sending unsigned suicide notes to Chief Superintendent Dalziel. He ignores them, then passes them on to Peter Pascoe on his return to work. Peter is trying to find out and help the mystery letter writer all the way through the story. Can we guess who it is ? Eventually, the Swain case is solved, but the true climax at the very end of the book is who wrote the letters, and can Peter get there in time.

It's a big, complex story, with light and shade, where everything is handled very well - yes, it's an award winning book.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Recalled to Life     (1992)


I read this book in December, 2019.

This is book 13 in the entertaining, fat slob Andy Dalziel and graduate introvert Peter Pascoe series set mostly in "God's Own Country - Yorkshire." It's a terrific series, and the banter between blunt Chief Super. Dalziel and DCI Pascoe is really done well. There are some good jokes and comments - non PC of course from larger that life figure Andy Dalziel. In this book Andy meets Linda Steele, a stunning young black American journalist / special agent, and they seem to fall into bed quite a lot. Fat Andy looks at himself in the mirror and can't believe his luck. Has she been ordered to sleep with him - strangely no. How does he do it ? This is often a puzzlement never really properly explained. Are they attracted by a "bit of rough ?" Andy of course never looks a gift horse in the mouth.
I wasn't too keen on the overall story - very complicated with too many twists and turns. At the end of the day, it turned out to be a spy story - dirty, end justifies the means, not much justice, etc. Apart from the private life story, the main story mostly features Dalziel - Pascoe and DS Wield play only minor parts.

The main story opens in 1963, the year of the Profumo scandal. We are at Micklemore Hall with a murder / suicide at a week end party attended by some very important people - a Tory minister, a CIA officer, James Westropp, a British diplomat with royal connections, and two young nannies, one the American nanny Cissy Kohler. The body is that of the diplomat's wife - she had been sleeping around, but that was OK as he had been sleeping with young Cissy. Poor Cissy was infatuated with Westropp - she thought it was mutual true love. Eventually Micklemore went to the gallows for the murder, and Cissy was to spend 30 years in jail. Dalziel was a young copper at the time working for a boss Wally Tallantine he greatly respected. Now, following an investigation by an American journalist Joe Waggs, it seems there might have been a miscarriage of justice. Cissy is released, and Deputy Chief constable Hiller of the Thames police is in town to investigate. A mysterious Mr Sempernel is also there - he is secret service. Dalziel knows Hiller of old, fears the reputation of Wally Tallantire is to be trashed, and decides to take an interest, and stick up for his old boss. Dalziel is warned off, but is not deterred and gets Pascoe to help him sneak a look at Hillers files. On the other hand someone breaks into Andy's home - a seeming burglary but Dalziel is not fooled.

It's all a lot more complicated, and the young children of the 1963 story are now grown up -- but something is still being hushed up . At the time, Cissy had panicked and to escape had rowed out to an island on a lake with two of the children she was caring for. She capsized the boat (deliberately ?) - and then rescued one of the children, but the other, little Emily drowned, and Cissy never, never forgave herself. "Punish me, I deserve it". Now Cissy is out and wants to see her former lover again - either to kill him or to make love to him. But it's years later, all too late. Dalziel's interest takes him to America and there he has various hilarious adventures, getting his name in the papers, and is of interest to the CIA. He quite likes American meal portions, but not much else. At the end of the day, we do get various versions of what really happened all those years ago, and this bit of the story seems stuck in repetition mode. I don't know how many times the story was retold - and I somewhat lost my way with all the complications and I lost interest. Hence my earlier comment, that I wasn't too keen on this story. It's worth a read, though.

Finally, what about the private lives story - and it's mostly Peter Pascoe's private life. His ongoing quarrels with Ellie continue and he fears his marriage is breaking down. He is semi depressed, and having panic attacks. Ellie and little Rose are away visiting Ellie's mum. Ellie's dad is in a home for dementia care, and Ellie fears her mum may also be suffering from early dementia. Against all her socialist principles Ellie books her mum into a private hospital to get a proper diagnoses. Luckily it's not as bad as she feared, and when Peter (and Dalziel) turn up at the hospital, Ellie is so relieved that she falls into Peter's arms.

Have Peter and Ellie a future after all ? We will need to read on. But let's hope for less of this spy nonsense, and have some plain crime fiction !






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















The Wood Beyond     (1995)


I read this book in February, 2019.

When I go on holiday I grab enough books to keep me going, and then find myself having to read books out of order. This is book 15 in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, but the previous one I had read was book 11. Peter is still with Ellie, and they still have only one child, Rosie. She is bright as can be, but has started swearing at home, and progressive parents Ellie and Peter don't know how best to proceed. They see Rosie's headmistress, partly to complain that Rosie must have picked up these words at school. Of course, the only place she swears is the only place she hears swearing - in her own home.

This is a big story in lots of way, but the back story is very complicated - and I'm not sure I have fully understood it even now that I have finished the book. It relies on some fantastic co-incidences that we must allow to pass - poetic licence. Peter is back home at his grandmother Ada's funeral. All her life Ada had hated the army and anything military with a passion - she chased poppy sellers away from her door with a flea in their ear. Peter has been set a task by Ada. He has to scatter her ashes at the HQ of his grandfather's former army company. This he does. He is then given the journal and writings of his great grandfather - who was also called Peter Pascoe. This Peter Pascoe was at Pashendaele in WW1. His officer was the son of the local landed gentry, and he did his best to look after the officer - but to say that he got no thanks for this is quite an understatement. I'll let you read the story to see what I mean.

Now DCI Peter Pascoe is having wierd dreams of life in WW1. Sometimes we are not clear whose thoughts we are sharing - WW1 Peter Pascoe, in flashback, or current DCI Peter Pascoe. Following this up is very time consuming. DCI Peter is neglecting his police duties - and Dalziel has noticed.

The main story is apparently about animal rights women breaking and entering into animal research centres. One such raid lead to the death of a security guard - a murder Peter Pascoe never solved. Now there is another raid at the local Wanwood House research centre where two things happen. Human bones are discovered, and Andy Dalziel meets the charismatic leader of the protestors. If the bones are recent, it's a murder inquiry, if ancient, it's case closed. Andy and Ms Marvell are soon sleeping together, and both care for each other more than they admit. But was Ms Marvell at the raid where the guard was killed ? In short, could Andy's new girlfriend be a possible murderer ? He has got himself into a rather tricky situation, and Peter Pascoe's mind is still back in WW1 !

Steady DS Wield is still on the scene. He now lives openly with partner Martin. They live in the sleepy village of Escombe. Martin is an ex lawyer, but he now owns and runs a bookshop. Wield is the one who acts as policeman throughout - or almost throughout. He doesn't agree with experiments on live animals - and has he liberated a baby monkey at the end of the book ? This is left in the air.

The main focus of the book is the senseless loss of countless lives in the mud of WW1 - the mass slaughter of millions of young men lead by public school "Hoorah Henry" officers. I sympathasise with all that is said about the horror of WW1, but the leftie leaning sentiments of this left wing author are overdone. And of course, Reginald Hill cannot resist a dig at Maggie Thatcher, and the Falklands. I have always been puzzled as to why so many fine authors are mostly left wing ? Normally left wing Ellie is balanced by Peter, and Peter Pasco by Andy Dalziel, but there is no balance in this book. I don't argue for balance in condemming WW1 atrocities, but for general balance in other things.

There is quite a bit I have missed out about the current day landed gentry owners of Wanwood House, and their own links to the WW1 story of Peter Pascoe. Nor have I mentioned the new company awarded the Wanwood House security contract. I thought the ending a bit contrived - "no way", I thought. But for all my reservations, this book is well worth a read. And yes, Reginald Hill is a good writer.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















On Beulah Height     (1998)


I read this book in June, 2019.

This is book 17 in the Chief Superintendent Dalziel and now DCI Pascoe series by Reginald Hill. I don't know how Hill manages to maintain such a high standard throughout - it's certainly a series that I am enjoying reading. And of course, "On Beulah Height" is an excellent story. I thought I had solved the mystery and then had to rethink several times. It's only at the very end that we find out the truth (what is truth, asks Peter Pascoe), and even then I had to read the second last chapter twice to check that I had understood the ending. He is a good writer, is Reginald Hill !

The main characters in the story are the holy trinity of Dalziel, Pascoe, and Wield - each very different characters but together they make a formidable team. "When Dalziel speaks you obey, when Pascoe speaks you listen, but when Wield speaks you take notes". "Dalziel knocks down walls and you jump through after him, Pascoe slides through hidden cracks and you never know where he is leading you. " There is not all that much banter between Dalziel and Pascoe in this story - perhaps it's too serious a tale. We get a new face on the scene in a female detective DC "Ivor" Novello. She is keen and new, and does remarkably well. Through her we learn how difficult it is to be a female in a man's world. Initially her hard work is taken over by others, but at the end she gets the recognition she deserves.

The story opens 15 years ago in the words of some child - Betsy Allwood. She lives on her parent's rented farm in Dendale on the Yorkshire Moors. It's an idyllic life - paradise really - but paradise is soon to be lost as the local water board are to dam and flood the valley, and the residents will be relocated to the next valley - Danby at the foot of Beulah Height. Betsy tells of life in Dendale, and slowly we learn the terrible story of a local young girl who goes missing, never to be seen again, and then another young girl goes missing, and then a third. Dalziel is in charge of the failed investigation. A local young man, Benny Lightfoot, who lived with his grandmother and was thought of as simple was blamed. Apparently he escaped before the police could charge him. Later we find out that there was an attempted abduction of a fourth young girl - young Betsy herself was the one that got away. It was Betsy that said that Benny was the abductor. Betsy's mum died, and her father later committed suicide, and Betsy went to live with her aunt. Betsy appears later under her new name, but she has been hiding a terrible secret all these years. Now, in Danby, a young girl has gone missing, and Dalziel and Wield are back, but this time with Pascoe and young DC Novello as part of the team. That said, Peter Pascoe is soon on compassionate leave. His young daughter Rosie is in a coma in hospital with bacterial meningitis, fighting for her life. The fight is envisaged through a story Rosie had been reading of a young girl Nina who was captured by an evil Nix ( a Yorkshire pixie) but who was rescued by her father. Now Nina has been captured by the Nix again, who has also got Rosie captive in his underground cave / Rosie's coma. This fairytale narrative within the story is a brilliant touch I thought. Will Rosie excape the Nix and come out of her coma ?

The despair of parents whose children go missing pervades the story. Neighbours offer genuine absolute sympathy but are secretly relieved / pleased that it has happened to someone else - not their daughter. There is another story within a story of a brilliant local lass with a perfect voice - Elizabeth Wulfstan - who is to sing her own translation of German lieder in a local concert based on Friedrich Ruckert's poems about missing children.

So, all in all, its a big well crafted story and at the end DCI Pascoe emerges from his and his wife Ellie's virgil at Rosie hospital bed - Pascoe emerges to contribute to the end climax.

Brilliant writing !






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Arms and the Women     (1999)


I read this book in July, 2019.

In the picture alongside, Reginald Hill is described by one book critic as "The best living male crime writer in the English Speaking world." I am not sure if it's ever possible to say anyone is the "best," but, my goodness, Reginald Hill is a seriously good writer, and I am a great fan. The Dalziel and Pascoe series is a delight, and this is another excellent member of the series. Another critic describes this book as probably the best in the series, and I did look it up to see if it had won any awards. In short, it's really good. The book is clever, erudite, humourous, thrilling, and very readable.

As usual we have the holy trinity of Mid Yorkshire police - Super Andy Dalziel, DCI Peter Rascoe, and Sgnt Edgar Wield - returning for another outing, and now still with DC Shirley Novello as a fourth member of the team. But in this story, the star performer is Ellie Pascoe. It's a long complicated tale, of which more presently, but some mysterious group have made repeated attempts to kidnap Ellie - and the general thinking is that this is because she is married to a cop. Novello thinks otherwise - ie that Ellie is the real target, not Peter Pascoe. Ellie and Shirley Pascoe don't get on well, and Ellie knows this is not fair to Shirley, but she can't help it. In this story they are thrown together and share and survive genuine, life threatening danger. Surely they must end up better friends in later books ?

At the beginning of the book there are several stories unfolding at the same time, and it's difficult to know the significance of what we are reading - why are we being told all this ? Eventually all the strands will be woven together - it is so cleverly crafted. Firstly there are the attacks on Ellie, all beaten off. Who is doing it, and why ? Who is the mysterious Gawain Clovis Sempernel, and with whom is he in dialogue, someone referred to as Sybyl, some strange keeper of records. Ellie's record is part of Sybyl's collection - Ellie seems to have been an active member of every left wing or feminist action movement. Do "they" think Ellie is a terrorist, and Peter her assistant ? Ellie is still a member of Liberata, a woman's activist group run by a very old "bag woman" Feenie Macallum. Each member writes to some woman unjustly incarcinated somewhere in the world. The act of writing is to give hope, and to remind the powers that be, that their prisoners are known and remembered. Ellie writes to a South American prisoner Bruna, and we later find out that Bruna is the sister of Fidel, a notorious revolutionary hero / villain whom the authorities are desperate to catch. And so we have a murky tale involving Fidel trying to get a shipment of IRA arms to asist his stuggle, and paying for these arms with South American cocaine.

Dalziel and Peter think it might be safer for Ellie and Rosie to be out of the way, and hide out in a very remote holiday cottage owned by Ellie's good friend Daphne. Daphne and her husband had bought the cottage from a neighbour - none other than Feenie Macallum. Shirley Novello is to accompany Ellie and Daphne as an armed protection officer. Of course trouble follows Ellie, Feenie turns up, and eventually Dalziel and Peter are the cavalry rushing to save Ellie and Rosie, only this gets somewhat turned upside down. Feenie's own property is being eroded and at the climax of the book a big storm lashes the scene - will all our heroines be caught up in a massive land slip ?

Whilst a thrilling tale is unfolding, we are also following another story that Ellie is writing on her lap top. The story is Ellie's comfort blanket. She is still an unpublished writer, but has submitted some work, and is awaiting the publisher's reply The lap top story is steeped in classic mythology, and is the imagined meeting of the Trojan Prince Aeneas, with an old Greek enemy Odysseus. In Ellie's version Odysseus is fat, and speaks with a no nonsense Yorkshire accent, and Aenas seems to be a Peter Pascoe alter ego. She had intended to mock both Odysseus and Aeneas, but somehow wrote a very different ending where her characters turned out to be truly noble.

And very finally, there is more about remarkable little Rosie Pascoe. In the previous book Rosie survived meningitis, but her friend did not. Then she had imaginary friends to play with - now Rosie has lost her "mojo," is quiet and reserved, plays endless card games and the imaginery friends have gone. Rosie visits Sgnt Wield for a fun day out, and meets Tig whom Wield had taken in. Tig was the pet dog of the little girl that went missing / was murdered in the previous story. Tig and Rosie bond instantly and henceforth are inseparable. And so Rosie rediscovers her "mojo" and Tig gets a new little girl to protect hopefully better than the last time.

A great, complicated, multi stranded story, expertly told. I haven't even mentioned the Secret Service nor Cornelius, a beautiful gun runner. A smashing book !






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Dialogues of the Dead     (2002)


I read this book in January, 2020.

This is book 19 in the Dalziel and Pascoe, Yorkshire based series by Reginlad Hill. It's a very complicated story featurung a lot of academics who seemed to have swallowed the dictionery - the O.E.D. in this case - and delight in the use of obscure words. I admit to admiring the author's learning, but I found it getting tedious after a while. It took me a while to wade through all this stuff - not a good sign. There is a lot to like in the book, however, and the surprise ending was just that, a great surprise.

Let's deal with the personal lives story first. Peter Pascoe is a DCI, still destined for even higher things, but he is not sure if he wants more admin in his work, and less hands on detecting. His panic attacks of earlier books have gone, as have his quarrels with his wife Ellie. Little Rosie still dotes on her pet dog - a reference back to earlier in the series. Andy Dalziel is still with his lady friend, and they seem to be a well matched couple, good for each other. DC Ivor Novello is on medical leave - she was shot. A new DC appears - PC "Hat" Bowler, a fast track graduate like Peter Pascoe. He also spends a lot of the book wooing a young librarian, Rye Pomona. Her full name is Raiza Pomona (clue think of J.K Rowling's "I am Lord Voldemort" surprise).

The book mostly deals with death, and the writings of (to me ) rather obscure poets - the German Heine, and Beddoes. Their philosophy is "sleep is good, death is better, best of all is never to have been born". The book opens with two deaths - that of an AA patrol man, and that of a young musician. Both deaths appeared accidental. We now hear of a short story competition organised by the local paper, the Gazette. Someone has entered two macabre tales claiming to give the story of these two "accidental" deaths. "Hat" Bowler is asked to check it out, meets Rye Pomona, and is smitten. The short story entry is written as the first "Dialogue of the Dead." Someone very mentally disturbed is on a path to kill appropriate victims depending on perceived signs. We now get a series of deaths, each with a explaining "dialogue of the dead" short story. Each dialogue has very obscure clues about the identity of the madman, and perhaps a pointer to the next victim.

There are lots of suspects, but most end up as a murder victim. All the deaths seem to be connected to the local Arts Centre which also houses the library where Rye Pomona works under Dicky Dee, her librarian boss. We are also introduced to the word parunumania - excessive word game fetish. Dicky Dee plays a very complicated wordgame with his good friend and local author Greville Penn. Penn and Dee were at school together, the but of school bullies, but not for long.

The murderer has been given the name the Wordman, and so we read on to find out the Wordman's identity. We think we have the answer, but then there is a real surprise at the very end of the book in the final "dialogue of the dead." I think the surprise ending possibly sets up the next book in the series - "Deaths Jest-Book" which is referred to in this tale.

There is quite a lot of humour in the book, and the Dalziel, Pascoe, Wield banter is excellent. "Hat" Bowler is flavour of the month, but Ivor Novello will soon return (she appears briefly) and we anticipate some rivalry. Mostly I thought the plot too clever by half, and I wasn't entertained, nor did I enjoy reading this book. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with a simple crime novel - no serial killing madman, no obscure clues in latin, no riddles which require a doctorate in English literature to appreciate.

All in all, impressed, but not entertained by the constant verbosity.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Death's Jest-Book     (2003)


I read this book in February, 2020.

This is book 20 in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, and it's also a continuation of and conclusion to the story in book 19 - "Dialogues of the Dead." Both books are about death - not the cheeriest of subjects. Death pervades all academic studies into the life of an obscure "German" poet - Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Book 19 was about the "Wordman" deaths - someone who was killing people according to his / her distorted logic. Poor Dicky Dee was "identified" as being the "Wordman". He had been found apparently attacking his librarian assistant Pomona Rye, whose boyfriend, a new DC "Hat" Bowler rushes to her rescue. "Hat" loses self control in arresting Dee, but this lack of control is covered up by Dalziel. The "Wordman" killer was actually a woman, Pomona herself, and the book ended with "Hat" falling in love with Pomona. Was he to be the next victim, or had the mad killings finished ?

Book 20 is a long book of 670 pages, and there are lots and lots of sub plots. Wield tries to rescue a rent boy who later gives him tips about future crimes, Marcus Bellchamber is a rogue lawyer who tangles with Peter Pascoe, a hoard of saxon treasure is to be stolen, and Pascoe's least favourite student, Franny Roote is hounding him, and writing long letters to Peter - but why ?

Pascoe is convinced that Roote is a murderer, but everyone thinks he is obsessed with Roote. The letters are not really threatening, but Pascoe feels stalked.

Mostly I didn't care for the story any more than I cared for that of book 19. It was just too long, and I had to plough through a lot of verbage to get to the end.

But then came a brilliant ending that tied everything together - the Franny Roote story, the Pomona Rye story, the Wield rent boy story, and the treasure heist. The climax had little Rosie held as hostage, Ellie Pascoe frantic, and Peter Pascoe, just recovered from asian flu, rushing to the scene, but having to leave the rescuing to a most unlikely hero.

A lot of people are dead at the end of the book, and the good news is that hopefully, we will never hear of Thomas Lovell Beddoes again. (but see footnote.)

Yes, these are two well written stories by a writer showing his impressive academic prowess. Clever stuff ! But personally I didn't care for books 19 and 20. I have really enjoyed the rest of the series, but not these two books.

To end on a positive note, female DC "Ivor" Novello never puts a foot wrong, and gets a rare " well done" from Dalziel. I hope she gets more chances to excel in later books. She would be a good addition to the Dalziel, Pascoe, Wield trinity.

Footnote : by wierd coincidence Beddoes was quoted in chapter heading in the next book I read, Dorothy Sayer's "Have His Carcase."






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















Good Morning, Midnight     (2004)


I read this book in April, 2020.

This is book 21 in Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series, and once again we rejoin our three stars - Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Dalziel, DCI Peter Pascoe, and Segeant Wield. DS "Ivor" Shirley Novello and DC Bowler (Hat) are also there, Novello impressive as usual, and Bowler still on compassionate leave after the "Wordman" stories, and his girlfriend's death. He is in a bit of bad mental state and we are not sure if we join Hat in his dreams, or if he really is wandering through a wood when he comes across a "Hanzel and Grettel" house. The house, Blacklow Cottage, is real, and lived in by a bird loving old lady. Bowler is a twitcher, and so he and the old lady become instant friends. This lady is Lavinia Maciver - one of the Maciver family, the subject of this book. The old lady has a good neighbour and friend in the mysterious Mr Waverley - supposedly a retired VAT inspector, but really a dormant secret service agent now reactivated. In brief, the story mixes a police suicide / murder investigation with the black arts of espionage where we no longer know who or what is good and who or what is bad, the end justifies the means, etc, etc. And this is taking place in the aftermath of 9/11 when all changes for the American authorities and secret deals to sell arms to the arabs, once tolerated, are now poison.

Pal Maciver Snr was a married, local businessman who sold his Yorkshire based company to a large American corporation, but was kept on in a "non job". He had three children - Pal Jnr, Clarissa, and Helen. Sadly Mrs Maciver died, but Pal Snr found a second wife - an American called Kay, PA to Tony Kafka, CEO of the UK arm of the American corpoporation. Kay was resented / hated by Pal Jnr and Clarissa, but became a loved and loving second mum to the then 4 year old Helen. Pal Snr committed a strange suicide, and his wife Kay found Pal Jnr and Clarissa had changed the locks on the family home, and barred her. We are told of Kay's life story - a sad tale involving the loss of a dear child - and throughout Tony Kafka had always been there to help Kay when needed. Once again Kay needs help, and once again Tony gives her a place to stay. Eventually Kay and Tony get married.

Now, 10 years later, Pal Jnr also commits a strange suicide which is an exact copy of his fathers. But was it suicide, or was Pal Jnr murdered, and if so, by whom? In investigating the second suicide, Peter Pascoe has to investigate the first suicide and to his horror he finds that much was hushed up by Super Dalziel as an apparent favour to Kay, who turns out to be an old friend to whom he was greatly indebted. Dalziel had been set up by the American secret service, but Kay / Tony had sufficient influence to get Dalziel off the hook. So once again we are in shady, secret service territory.

It's a reasonably well told tale full of twists and surprises, but the police and Peter Pascoe are never going to prevail. There is a lot more to the story. Cressida Maciver is a friend of Ellie's, and there is a lot of marital unfaithfullness. Sue-Lynn was Pal Jnr's (unfaithful) wife, and Lavinia was Pal Snr's sister. The local vicar's sister had a secret second life as a goth like prostitute who slept with Helen Maciver's husband and Pal Jnr. Was Pal Jnr trying to seduce Kay, or was Kay trying to seduce Pal Jnr ? Lots of complications !

Over all, I don't like the secret service taking over a good detective series, and sadly, I didn't enthuse over this Dalziel and Pascoe outing. At one stage it seemed that Peter was going to have to go up against his boss Andy Dalziel, but this was averted, and so the Dalziel and Pascoe team survive for another adventure. I think I have now had a run of three stories in this series that disappoint - let's see what the next book brings.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















The Death of Dalziel     (2007)


I read this book in May, 2020.

This is book 22 in the excellent Dalziel and Pascoe series by Reginald Hill. But how can it be the death of Dalziel when we know there are two more books in the series ? Before we contact Trades Description let me explain that early on Andy Dalziel does actually die when his heart stops beating in intensive care. Dr Sowden shocks him five times and happily the heart finally starts beating again. Dr Sowden later joked he couldn't stand the idea of Dalziel's ghost haunting him for ever more, and so he kept on giving shocks! But Dalziel is in a deep coma and 3 weeks later no one expects him to wake up - no one except little Rosie Pascoe, who somehow knows that Uncle Andy will wake up when he wants to. Is she correct - you will have to read the book to find out ?

This is a really strong story. There is a siege in Mill Street, Pascoe has Saturday off, and Dalziel has responded. It was hapless PC Hector who called it in - he claimed to have seen a gunman in number 3. Pascoe is called in because that location has been tagged on the system as a possible terrorist location, and Andy Dalziel may not know. Andy thinks it's stupid that they are both cowering behind a car because of something hopeless PC Hector thought he saw, and so he decides to investigate for himself, and then everyone can go home. Andy advances on No 3, with a reluctant Peter Pascoe behind, and then a massive bomb goes off, injuring both Dalziel and Pascoe, but Andy gets the full force of the blast, with Peter mostly sheltered behind Andy's massive bulk.

We now hear of a mysterious group called the Knights of Templar - named after the famous Knights Templar formed in the Middle Ages to defend Christianity from the Infidels. The members of the group have given themselves strange names - Andre de Montbard, Hugh de Payens, Geoffrey O, and Geoffrey B, Archambaud de St Agram, etc. These are the names of the founders of the Knights Templar. They are very anti Moslems and anti arabs - any well known Moslem is a target. Some are ex SAS who were tortured in Iraq and have reason to be so bitter. They think the only good Moslem is a dead one . They kill and behead Said Magraani. A Scottish female Chief Superintendent Sandy Glenister is in charge of a CAT team - a combined special branch and MI5 anti terrorist team. Sandy takes over Andy's office and radiates efficiency. She gets Pascoe seconded to her team. Peter has vowed to catch those that blew up his boss and friend, and so he goes along with the CAT team, but is not altogether always made welcome. He soon decides there is a mole within CAT leaking intelligence to the Knights of Templar, and goes his own way! It's a different Peter Pascoe in this story. Strangely he seems to have become Andy Dalziel, man of action - get results by making things happen. Ellie doesn't like the new Peter.

There are lots of strands to this story. Ellie has had her first book published. It only got a luke warm reception, but she is writing book two. She is invited on to a "set up" TV chat show along with country sport loving Maurice Kentmore, and Kalim Sarhadi, a defender of a well known Moslem leader. There is an incident and Maurice saves the day. And so we get to know Kentmore, and his widowed sister in law Kilda. Her husband and Maurice's brother Christopher had been tortured and killed in Iraq. The story of the dying Christopher phoning Kilda is in a book written by an ex SAS soldier called Youngman. We also hear of the Michael Carradice (far right, BNP) trial that falls apart. Carradice is a very distant relative of Ellie's.

Although I don't usually like it when MI5 get involved in police crime stories, I thought this was an exception. I kept page turning to see what happened to Andy, and would Peter manage to get vengeance - not a proper reason for the old Peter, but the driving force for the new Peter Pascoe.

There is little of the usual banter between Andy and Peter in this book. Andy is in a coma, but we join him in his strange dreams when he sees fading light, is aware of an Elsewhere calling to him, of brilliant light behind a membrane, and when he talks to a construct of his confused mind he thinks to be god. It's all done very well. Andy's girlfriend Cap Marvell is at his bed side most of the time, and she leaves dance and Scottish country music playing to the comatose Dalziel. Of course Sgn Wield is here, and there is quite a bit about young Rosie Pascoe and her faithful and beloved dog Tig. I liked her visit to Maurice Kentmore's country fete where Rosie was a star with the local school children.

All in all, a terrific story with Reginald Hill in top form !






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page






















A Cure For All Diseases     (2008)


I read this book in July, 2020.

This is book 23 in the excellent Dalziel and Pascoe series. Death is the Cure for All Diseases - so I feared we were back in dreary, death obsessed poet Beddows territory, and, sure enough, Franny Roote has turned up again. The Roote / Pascoe story has been running for a while. When we last left it, Roote had destroyed all Pascoe's suspicions when he rescued young Rosie Pascoe, at great personal cost. He got shot in the back, and paralysed. Pascoe got Roote massive financial compensation, and Roote disappeared abroad to search for better medical treatment / and possibly even look for a cure. Now, he reappears in a wheel chair, able to sit up, and reasonably mobile. The cure was even better than that, as we shall learn by the end of the book.

The main private lives story is that Andy is recovering from the terrorist bomb explosion that so nearly killed him. Now he has awakened from a long coma, and has been persuaded by his girlfriend Capn to top up the police medical recuperation package by paying part himself, and going private to the best - in this case the Avalon Clinic in Sandytown. This book is the story of Andy's journey back from weakling to something approaching his old self. I think he'll be back to full strength in the next book. Meanwhile, Peter Pascoe is in charge - and he likes the feeling of being top man at last. But it's a harder Peter Pascoe - one willing to cut corners to get results. It's as if Peter Pascoe has become Andy Dalziel !

It's a big, 535 page story that opens slowly. We are reading a Charlotte (Charley) Heywood email to her sister who is a nurse in Africa - and so we are introduced to optimist Tom Parker, and his wife Mary when their car breaks down on the Heywood farm. Tom and Lady Denham are in a partnership to develop Sandytown into a modern seaside attraction, and offer Tom's pet hobby - alternative medicine - alongside the Avalon Clinic. Charley is a newly qualified psychiatrist who wants to do a PhD on the mental attitudes of those who experience "miracle " cures / successful alternative therapies.

The Parkers and Charley get on well, and Charley accepts an invitation to visit the Sandytown development and stay for a week. Now the story really takes off. Lady Daphne Denham is man mad. Her first husband, "Hog" Hollis died, and was part eaten by his pigs, and his vast fortune went to Daphne. She married again to get the title Lady Denham. Her second husband died too - this time from a riding accident when he fell and broke his neck. Denham is using her money to get her relatives to dance attandance on her - ie Teddy (Sir Edward) Denham, his sister Esther and her distant cousin Clara Brereton. "Do as I say, or I'll disinherit you." Sidney Parker is Tom's brother and financial adviser.

Murder is in the air - but who will be murdered? In brief, it's Lady Denham, and so there are multiple suspects. Daphne Denham was evil, but of course this did not excuse murder. DCI Peter Pascoe turns up, with Sgnt Wield, and DCs Dennis Seymoor, Ivor Novello, and Hat Bowler, etc. Novello and Bowler are still competing ferociously to be top dog. Charley gets caught up in all this, and the recovering Andy Dalziel cannot help "taking an interest." To date it's the Andy Dalziel / Peter Pascoe combination that has been so successful - but Peter likes being in charge for a change. Luckily, when he oversteps, Andy is there in the background, covering Peter's back but in secret. I guess the series is about understated friendship too - that of Andy and Peter.

It's a great story really.I did think Reg Hill had overcomplicated it towards the end, but he changed his mind just in time at the very, very end. Two of the story's characters would have made very good detectives - Franny Roote, out-thinking everyone in sight, and Charley, a bright Yorkshire lass, daughter of one of Andy's old rugby "chums". And talking of detectives, let's name check little 9 year old Minnie Heywood, all seeing and all knowing.

Hopefully now, we may get a rest from Franny Roote, Beddows, and the Third Wave death obsessed philosophy which seems to have become a Reg. Hill obsession.

In the end, who killed Lady Denham is not the main story - it's the parallel private lives stories of a very strong set of characters, and the Yorkshire no nonsense setting.






Links to author index and home page

      Reginald Hill Heading          Author Index    Go to        Home Page