‘Celebrating Reginald Hill’ Competition #1 now open

We hope you’ve been reading the site with great enjoyment.  You may want to try out a novel by Reginald Hill for the first time, you might want to extend your Hill reading, or you may love to collect first editions.  In all cases we have prizes just for you.  For competition #1 we will concentrate on two of the popular books in our posts to date and thus we have the following up for grabs:

  1. 2 UK first editions of The Woodcutter (see picture above – Midnight Fugue and the poster will be offered in Competition#3)
  2. 3 UK paperbacks of The Woodcutter
  3. 5 UK paperbacks of The Stranger House.

Many thanks to HarperCollins for the provision of the prizes. Continue reading

News Alert – Competition #1

Just to let you know, the prizes for competition #1 which will run this Friday are confirmed as:

  1. 2 UK first editions of The Woodcutter (see picture below – Midnight Fugue and the poster will be offered in competition #3)
  2. 3 UK paperbacks of The Woodcutter
  3. 5 UK paperbacks of The Stranger House.

We will have questions based on what’s been featured on this site so far, so get swotting!

Thanks to HarperCollins for their generosity.

Reginald Hill – an appreciation

By Bill Kitson

I was very sad when I learned of Reg Hill’s death. My regret was twofold, in part because I had heard so many people speak of him in such glowing terms, both as a writer and as a person, and also because I would have loved to have been given the chance to express my appreciation of his talent as demonstrated in one of his books in particular.

I had enjoyed the Dalziel and Pascoe books and the television adaptation of them, with the admirable Warren Clarke in the lead role. So when I was travelling to Crete on holiday, I looked forward to reading a stand-alone novel of Hill’s that I had bought at the airport. I didn’t realize the shock that was in store for me.

Link to paperback on Amazon UK.

The book was The Stranger House, the plot of which centres around two young people from different countries, different continents even, and from widely differing backgrounds, who journey independently to Illthwaite, a small Cumbrian village, where the Stranger House is situated. The house has been used for centuries as a haven for travellers, but the youngsters are more interested in discovering the truth about what happened to their ancestors who came from that village and why they left, or were forced to leave.

Many of the inhabitants of the village are descendants of people who lived there 500 years ago during the period when people of the Catholic faith were being cruelly persecuted, and as old divisions emerge, it becomes clear that some of them have a vested interest in the secrets of the past remaining buried – literally buried in some cases. There is an awesome demonstration of Hill’s talent here as he varies the pace of the narrative when describing events in the present day and those from long ago, matching that speed to the pace of life at the time.

The young visitors gradually begin to uncover clues to crimes both old and new, and as I continued to read it and the plot wound its way to a logical conclusion, I reached the penultimate pages knowing I had worked out the satisfactory and credible ending.

Genius is an overworked word these days, but when I read the final word of the epilogue, I gasped aloud. The revelation contained in that final word pulled all the intricately woven threads of the plot together and provided added motive and credibility to everything that had taken place throughout the narrative. To construct a book that is 640 pages long and to leave the denouement until the very last word – that to me is genius, or something very close to it.

I may never be able to emulate such a result, or even get close to it, but The Stranger House will always remain a benchmark, a target that is possibly unattainable – but one that I can at least aim for. Falling short will be no disgrace. And for anyone who hasn’t read it, you’ve missed a treat. I thoroughly recommend rectifying that omission.

Bill Kitson, creator of the DI Mike Nash series, was born in Baildon on the edge of Ilkley Moor. In his leisure time he played cricket before becoming an umpire where a One Day International at Lords was the pinnacle of his career. He worked for many years in the finance industry (in the days when banks made profit!) before taking early retirement, when his love of writing became his fulltime occupation. Now, Bill lives in a small village in North Yorkshire on the edge of the Dales where the countryside provides the backdrop for his books.

Book Review: The Stranger House – Reginald Hill – two perspectives

Link to UK paperback edition

Review by Sarah Ward of Crimepieces, from the UK

Although Reginald Hill will be forever associated with the Yorkshire countryside and the inimitable pairing of Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe, Hill also had a number of successful standalone books which he used to widen his range of characters and settings. In his later life, Hill resided in Cumbria which provided the backdrop to The Stranger House published in 2005. Although much of the narrative was placed in the small Cumbrian village of Illthwaite, the plot embraced events in 1960s Australia and sixteenth century Spain. These elements combined to produce a thriller unique amongst his body of work.

The narrative opens with Sam Flood, an eleven year old girl living on a farm in the Australian outback. After watching a programme about orphaned children who were sent from England to Australia as part of a child migrant programme she feels an unbearable sense of loss. Years later, Sam travels to England to enjoy a holiday before she starts her studies in Mathematics at Cambridge University. She visits the village of Illthwaite which her paternal grandmother left in the early 1960s and rents a room in the village inn, The Stranger House. Sam notices that her name evokes strange reactions from the villagers and the mystery deepens when she finds the gravestone of a man who shares her name.

Another guest at The Stranger House is Mig Madero, from a sherry-making family, who following a series of religious experiences felt a call to the priesthood. No longer a seminarian, he is in Illthwaite to study the history of the Woollas family, Catholics during the time of religious persecution who sheltered recusant priests in their village. Mig feels a strong sense of affinity with the place and the discovery of documents from the Woollas’s manor house may help him discover why.

Sam Flood struggles to understand the dynamics of the secretive village that closes ranks when she tries to uncover the history of her grandmother’s exile as part of the Child Migrants Programme. She feels threatened by the village’s infamous Gowder twins, although some sympathetic villagers are prepared to reveal glimpses of past secrets. When Sam stumbles on the truth of the events of 1961 she becomes an avenging angel, and finds an ally in Mig.

The Stranger House provides a mystery that combines supernatural elements with physical manifestations of evil. The sense of the mystical is provided mainly through the character of Mig, a frail and other-worldly young man who struggles with the sexual attraction he feels towards first the glamorous Frek Woollas and later Sam. The visions that he continues to receive even in Illthwaite provide the link between sixteenth century Spain and present day Cumbria. Continue reading