Book Review and Tribute: On Beulah Height – Reginald Hill

Review by Norman Price of Crime Scraps Review from the UK

A Tribute to Reginald Hill, Reading On Beulah Height

Reginald Hill died from brain tumour on the 12th January 2012 and will be greatly missed. Along with PD James, Ruth Rendell, and Colin Dexter he dominated crime writing in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s.  He was born on 3 April 1936 in West Hartlepool in County Durham, into, in his words “a very ordinary family”, and after passing his Eleven Plus Exam went to Carlisle Grammar, and St Catherine’s, Oxford.

Although he wrote other novels including a series about Joe Sixsmith, a black private investigator in Luton, he is best known for creating Andy Dalziel, the rumbustious police detective, who believed anyone from south of Sheffield was a “jumped up, supercilious intellectual twit”.  The series of books featuring Dalziel and his younger colleague Peter Pascoe started with A Clubbable Woman in 1970, and the last published book was Midnight Fugue in 2009.

UK paperback edition

I recently went back to read On Beulah Height, which was published in 1998, shortly after the television series began to feature on our screens in 1996.

Fifteen years before three young blonde girls had gone missing and no bodies had ever been discovered. These events occurred just before the village of Dendale was flooded by Mid-Yorkshire Water PLC to create a reservoir.

‘And Dendale was lovely, was it?’ said Pascoe.
‘Oh, yes. It were a grand place, full of grand folk.’

The reader learns about Dendale from a statement by Betsy Allgood, who was attacked by, but managed to escape from the strange reclusive Benny Lightfoot, who also disappeared without trace. The young Dalziel had released Benny and this was one case that remained unsolved.

When the water level falls in the reservoir due to the very hot weather, the bulldozed wreckage of Dendale is exposed and another young girl, Lorraine Dacre, on an early morning walk with her dog, goes missing. Continue reading