Book Review: Midnight Fugue – Reginald Hill

Review by Rob Kitchin of The View From the Blue House, from Ireland

Review of Midnight Fugue by Reginald Hill (2009, HarperCollins)

In Mid-Yorkshire, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel is not quite himself, still easing himself back into work after being hospitalised by a terrorist bomb.  His Monday morning starts badly when, seemingly late for work, he discovers that it’s actually Sunday.  To make matters worse he’s been followed by a woman chasing a ghost – her former copper husband who disappeared seven years previously after the death of their daughter and accusations he was on the take.  She in turn is being followed by a sister and brother pairing, sent to dispose of the rogue cop before he turns against the criminal he served.  That criminal is Goldie Gidman, who started running rackets, progressed into the money markets of London’s square mile, and is now a major conservative party funder.  His son is a MP and a rising star of the party.  Both are being hounded by a tabloid journalist, the nephew of a cop who failed to corner Gidman for the murder of a local Polish businessman.  A recent picture of the rogue cop, taken in Yorkshire, has been sent to his former wife and she wants Dalziel to help find him so she can get divorced and marry one of his former colleagues, one of Dalziel’s old copper mates.  So starts a sixteen hour swirl of drama and farce. Continue reading

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Book Review and Tribute: Dialogues of the Dead

By Anne Zouroudi

Link to PB on Amazon UK.

When I was younger than I am now, Reginald Hill was a privileged resident at our house.  Or at least, his novels – Deadheads and An April Shroud come immediately to mind – had homes in the family bookcase.

My mother and father, though keen readers, rarely bought books.  Most books in our house were on loan, chosen on the regular Saturday afternoon run to the library.  But at some point – an East Coast holiday seems the most likely time and place (Skegness or Scarborough, rather than Nantucket or New York) – my mother paid money for Reginald Hill.  I see that as her vote of confidence in his reliability.

I picked up my first Reginald Hill after watching the BBC’s brilliant serialisation of Dalziel and Pascoe – Warren Clarke as a bossy and bluff Dalziel, David Royle as the craggy- faced Wield, and I fell half in love with handsome Colin Buchanan in the role of Pascoe.  I was already addicted to Morse, and Dalziel and Pascoe was an interesting foil for the gentility of Oxford academia, with the rude and crude Dalziel an evil twin to the thoughtful and cultured Morse.

Dialogues of the Dead came later, but in my mind Clarke and Buchanan were forever Dalziel and Pascoe, and it was their voices I heard as I read.  It’s a long book, over 550 pages, and that immediately earns my admiration.  To write such a long novel takes great stamina; to maintain pace to engage the reader through such length takes an accomplished craftsman. Continue reading

Book Review: The Death of Dalziel

By Yvonne Klein of Reviewing the Evidence

Introduction

Link to title on Amazon USA.

When I reviewed this (under its North American title, Death Comes For The Fat Man), a perennial tiff had surfaced in the papers regarding the relative merits of literary vs. genre fiction. It was a discussion that was to come to a bit of a boil a year or so later, at Harrogate, when John Banville announced that he could manage only 200 words a day when writing as himself, but as Benjamin Black, he could crank out 2,000. Appearing on the same panel, Reginald Hill gained a round of applause when he said, “When I get up in the morning, I ask my wife whether I should write a Booker prize winning novel, or another bestselling crime book. And we always come down on the side of the crime book.” Hill may have always turned to crime, but he was far from abandoning the literary, especially in the later novels and picking up his references, which his novels wore lightly, was one the great pleasures his work provided.

Review

On a warm Bank Holiday afternoon, Hector, a police constable not noted for his acute observation or articulate expression, thinks he hears something like a gunshot. He ambles into a dimly-lit shop where he is assured that all is well. But he does report the incident, more or less, and thus sets into train a series of events that will shortly see Andy Dalziel in hospital, uncertainly poised between life and death. Peter Pascoe, protected by Andy’s bulk from the full blast of the explosion, embarks on a single-minded and unorthodox investigation of the crime. Continue reading

Review: The Woodcutter – Reginald Hill

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.’

Continue reading

Book Review and Tribute: Bones and Silence

By Jake Kerridge

Link to PB at Amazon UK.

Unlike some literary prizes (I’m looking at you, Booker), the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger has a noble record of rewarding the best writers for their best work. In theory then, Bones and Silence (1990), the only one of Hill’s novels to win the prize, ought to be his finest book. Julian Symons’s mighty history of crime fiction, Bloody Murder, also declared it to be Hill’s best.

I also have a sentimental reason for wanting to write about it here: it was the first Hill book I read. I was fourteen, I think, had gorged my way through pretty much all of Christie, Conan Doyle and the Father Brown stories, and was struggling to find books by contemporary crime writers that measured up.

Then I picked up a second-hand copy of Bones and Silence and my socks were blown off. Here was a writer who had much of the ingenuity of those old, dead guys I loved, but had more scope and ambition. He could be exciting, he could be moving, he could be funny, and often any combination of the three at the same time. Continue reading

Selection of Book Reviews: Dalziel and Pascoe – Reginald Hill

A selection of reviews by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise, from Australia, in her noted style applying ratings out of a maximum of 5.

Just as his Dalziel & Pascoe novels (27 of them in all) constitute only about a third of his total output, so the various reviews of Reginald Hill titles on Mysteries in Paradise are but the tip of the iceberg.

5.0 A Cure for All Diseases
4.5 Asking For the Moon
4.5 Child’s Play
4.3 Death of a Doormouse
4.7 Midnight Fugue
4.5 The Spy’s Wife
4.2 The Roar of the Butterflies
3.8 There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union
4.8 The Woodcutter

And I thought that as he got older he got better. His novels were more than police procedurals, or thrillers, or murder mysteries. They had intellectual and literary content, to the point where I thought he could really be said to be one of those cross genre writers.

I have only read, regretfully, about a third of all the books he wrote, but I’d love to point you to the three that I liked best. To these I gave a rating of 5.

The Wood Beyond published in 1996, #15 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series

Police Inspector Peter Pascoe has stumbled upon the remains of an ancestor unjustly executed in wartime. As he delves into the mystery of his disgraced great-grandfather’s death, his partner, Detective Superintendent Andrew Dalziel, is preoccupied with a shapely animal rights activist. Eight female protesters have discovered human bones on the grounds of a drug company’s research headquarters, and the investigation has a shocking connection to Pascoe’s own family case.

The Death of Dalziel published in 2007, #22 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series aka Death Comes For the Fat Man

When Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel sticks his nose in where it is not wanted yet again, and is consequently blown up by a Semtex bomb exploding in a video store, the unthinkable is on the cards: the death of fat Andy. Then it seems there is little justice in the world. Sheltered by Dalziel’s bulk, and only slightly injured in the bomb blast, Peter Pascoe is fairly quickly seconded to CAT, the anti-terrorist unit. As fat Andy fights against the odds and remains in a coma, blame falls on the Knights Templar, a right wing group pledged to dealing with Moslem sympathisers through summary execution and even suicide bombing. Pascoe suspects there may be a mole in CAT who is leaking information to the Knights Templar, and that his secondment is in fact busy work to keep an eye on him. There are some beautiful cameo performances in this book: Cap Marvell, Dalziel’s partner;  Hector,  the policeman who originally noticed something odd in the video store; Rosie, Peter Pascoe’s daughter who has absolute faith that Uncle Andy will wake up when he is good and ready; Ellie Pascoe, so supportive of Peter; and finally Wieldy, ever faithful, always coming up with the goods. This is one book that you don’t want to finish… Continue reading

The Dalziel and Pascoe Series: A Personal View

By Roberta Rood of Books to the Ceiling from Maryland, USA.

“Ever the master of form and sorcerer of style” – that’s what Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times called Reginald Hill in her 1998 review of On Beulah Height. At that time, I had just begun reading the Dalziel and Pascoe series. I knew I liked Hill’s writing, but I didn’t know just how much until I read On Beulah Height. This is not just a brilliant mystery – it is a brilliant novel, period.

A while back, when I was feeling the need of a Reginald Hill fix, I picked up an earlier (1973) novel that I had never read, Ruling Passion. Here we encounter Peter Pascoe as a Detective Sergeant, prior to his achievement of the rank of Detective Chief Inspector. (There was never much doubt that Pascoe was a comer.) He and Ellie Soper are lovers – but will they marry?

Ellie Soper Pascoe (as she becomes in fairly short order) is one of my favorite continuing characters in this series.  Quite the spitfire, she’s an unapologetic feminist as well as an aspiring novelist. She’s not initially a fan of Peter’s boss, the larger-than-life – in every way! – Andy Dalziel. For his part, Andy describes Ellie as being “authentic liberal radical left-wing pink Dalziel-hating.”  Though it makes Peter anxious, these two love to spar. (Ellie gets her own memorable starring vehicle in Arms and the Women, subtitled ‘An Elliad’.) Continue reading