Review by Vanda Symon of Overkill, from New Zealand
I read with great sadness that Reginald Hill had died early this year. He was huge in the world of crime fiction, bringing us a piece of Yorkshire with the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but it wasn’t until I read his obituary that I realised that his writing ranged far further than crime, and that he’d also written historic fiction, thrillers, science fiction and another series – Joe Sixsmith. It also made me realise I hadn’t actually read any of his books. I’d seen the BBC adaptations of Dalziel and Pascoe, and in an odd kind of a way my mind had decided that because I’d seen the programmes, I’d therefore read the books. But we all know that is not the case!
It was time to remedy the situation. But where to start? The man had written over fifty novels! Normally I would start at the beginning, particularly if the writer had a series of books, but then with twenty-four Dalziel and Pascoe novels it was all a bit daunting. So I decided to start at the end, with The Woodcutter, the stand-alone thriller published in 2010. I’d read some great reviews of the book, so thought I’d go with what people were calling one of his best.
Of course he had me with the first lines:
‘Summer 1963; Profumo disgraced; Ward dead; The Beatles’ Please please me top album; Luther King having his dream; JFK fast approaching the end of his; the Cold War at its chilliest; the Wind of Change blowing ever more strongly through Colonial Africa, with its rising blasts already being felt across the Gate of Tears in British-controlled Aden.’
Wow, what a way to throw a reader straight into the mood of the period. Then we meet the star of the show, Wolf, or Sir Wilfred Hadda as he is formally known, a man living the fairytale lifestyle, and see his headlong plunge into turmoil which finishes with him physically broken and incarcerated for child pornography crimes he swears he did not commit.
This story fair dragged me along with the pace and the characters, including Elf, who I admit I did not like initially. Like all good thrillers, I feel I can’t say too much without spoiling things for anyone yet to read it, but my advice would be make sure you do! It’s a cracker.
So I have now read a Reginald Hill novel, and I feel a sadness, the wistful sadness of someone who wishes she had read his works while he was still alive, that she has somehow missed out on a special something by being late to the party. But I will make up for that, for The Woodcutter has certainly sparked a desire to read more, and to even pluck up the courage to start at the beginning, to hunt out the delightfully titled ‘A Clubbable Woman.’ I might be a little late discovering Reginald Hill, but he has left an amazing body of work to keep me happily reading for a long time to come.
Vanda Symon is a resident of Dunedin, New Zealand. She is the author of the Sam Shephard detective series, published by Penguin New Zealand: Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound. Her latest novel, The Faceless, is her first standalone thriller. She is represented by Gregory & Company in the UK.