book log: 62) Reginald Hill — Ruling Passion

62) Reginald Hill — Ruling Passion

Third of the Dalziel and Pascoe books. At the end of the last book Peter Pascoe had got back together with old flame Ellie, and now they’re invited to spend a weekend with four of their old university friends. They’re late because Peter’s been tied up with a serial burglary case that looks as if it’s escalating to violence.

What they find when they finally arrive is a scene of carnage. Three people are dead, the fourth is missing in circumstances that lead the local police to make him chief suspect. Pascoe’s involvement in the case is officially as a witness, but he can’t help but get involved in the investigation, even if unofficially. These are his friends, after all, and he can’t believe that one of them could really have changed so much as to commit murder. As the case progresses, Pascoe finds his ambiguous status of use to the official investigation, but an ever increasing source of frustration for himself. And Dalziel wants him back in Yorkshire, the more urgently because the burglary case has turned very nasty indeed.

The nature of the plot means that the book focuses strongly on Pascoe, with Dalziel largely present as a supporting role. It nevertheless shows the growth in the relationship between the two men, in a story that twists and turns until the various plot strands finally come together. This is a superb study of a policeman struggling and frequently failing to retain his professional detachment in the face of a crime that strikes only too close to home.

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Book log: Reginald Hill — Midnight Fugue

Book 66

The 24th book in the Dalziel and Pascoe. Hill is once again playing entertaining literary games; this time around he’s using the format of timed chapters giving overlapping strands of a story that plays out in just 24 hours, and playing on the musical theme of a fugue, with a book that’s all about what happens as a man emerges from a fugue in the psychiatric sense. You don’t need to understand exactly what he’s doing to enjoy this story, but the techniques add depth to an entertaining police procedural.

The Fat Man has just returned to work after being nearly killed in a bomb blast two books back, but he’s still not fully recovered, and the world has moved on in his absence. Thus when he gets a call for help, he’s inclined to treat it as personal hobby rather than official case until he’s sure what he’s dealing with. But the case all too quickly snowballs, as a racketeer-turned-respectable sends in a team to ensure that the dead past stays dead.

There’s ongoing development of the continuing characters, some beautifully drawn new characters, a lot of (often very dark) humour, and a brilliant twist at the very end. Not quite my favourite of the series (that’s still Dialogues of the Dead/Death’s Jestbook), but well up there.

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Book review: Reginald Hill — Arms and the Women

Someone tries to abduct Ellie Pascoe, and the obvious assumption is that it’s to get at Peter — but there’s more going on than meets the eye. Some of Ellie’s activist friends have very interesting connections, and chance brings some of them together in even more interesting patterns. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, one of Dalziel’s unwanted connections doesn’t believe in coincidences…

This is definitely not one for new readers — the opening sequence requires a good deal of patience, and trust that it will eventually make sense. In fact, it’s an excellent example of the sort of thing new writers are advised not to do. Even long-time fans of the series will be left wondering what is going on for the first three chapters. Things gradually become clear, and in retropect the initial section makes a great deal of sense. Whether you like it or not will depend on what you look for in a Dalziel and Pascoe book. This novel focuses on Ellie Pascoe and her friends, and there’s much less of Dalziel and police procedural material than usual. That’s partly because much of the Dalziel and Pascoe page count is in the form of a novella Ellie is writing, with the pair cast as Odysseus and Aeneas. Chapters from Ellie’s novel are woven into the main storyline, eventually tying in with the “real life” location of the main story. I enjoyed the book, and very much enjoyed the story-within-a-story, but I can see why others wouldn’t.

This book is complete in itself, but is strongly tied in to the long term universe development of the series, with references to events in several previous books. There’s enough backstory worked in that there’s no need to have read the earier books, but you’ll probably get more out of this one if you’re already familiar with some of the backstory. It also contains significant spoilers for previous books, including the outcome of An Advancement Of Learning. In turn, some of the later books refer back to events in this one, but it’s not necessary to read this one first to enjoy the later books.

In summary, worth reading but not for everyone, and ideally should not be read before reading the earlier An Advancement of Learning.

Arms and the Women (Dalziel and Pascoe Mysteries (Paperback)) at amazon.com

Arms and the Women at amazon.co.uk

Arms and the Women at Barnes & Noble

Book review: Reginald Hill – A Pinch of Snuff

In the fifth book of the series, Dalziel and Pascoe have been working together long enough to have formed a good partnership. So Peter Pascoe is surprised when Dalziel dismisses a lead Pascoe is given on a porn film that may be more than it seems. Pascoe’s dentist is convinced that one scene in the current offering at the local private film club was not achieved by special effects, but showed a genuine beating–one severe enough that the actress might well have died as a result.

Pascoe pursues the matter in spite of Dalziel’s disinterest, and won’t drop it even when the dentist is accused of molesting an underage patient. When the elderly owner of the film club is found beaten to death, Pascoe suspects a link with his investigation of the possible snuff film. As he digs deeper it becomes clear that there’s something very nasty going on. But there are a good many threads to untangle before he uncovers the full story.

As usual with this series, this book is a well-crafted police procedure with stylish writing and a good deal of humour, though Hill never trivializes the crimes he describes. The book is self-contained and can be read without having first read any of the previous books. There’s some development of the long term story of the main characters, with the introduction of Sergeant Wield, and a look at the early months of Peter and Ellie’s marriage. Ideally the series should be read in order, but this entertaining and thoughtful book makes a good startng point if the earlier books aren’t available.

A Pinch of Snuff at amazon.com
A Pinch of Snuff (Dalziel & Pascoe Novel S.) at amazon.co.uk
A Pinch of Snuff at Barnes and Noble

Book review: Reginald Hill, An Advancement of Learning

The second Dalziel and Pascoe novel sees the pair at a college of higher education after the discovery of a corpse under a statue’s foundation block. Naturally, life gets even more complicated, and not just because they have to wade through both student and staff politics in their pursuit of the truth. Fresh corpses are provided, and it’s up to Dalziel and Pascoe to decide which were murder and which were suicide, ideally without becoming corpses themselves.

Dalziel has no time for students, and the feeling’s mutual. But Dalziel doesn’t let his dislike lead him into underestimating his opponents, while the students make the mistake of thinking that Dalziel’s a fascist pig and therefore stupid. Pascoe’s feelings are more ambiguous, as he was a graduate recruit to the police force. His former university friends don’t approve of his choice of his career, and his liberal sympathies don’t always endear him to his colleagues, but this case reassures him that being a copper was the best way for _him_ to change the world for the better. The pair’s different experiences and views combine to form a formidable team in this setting, something they’ll need to deal with the criminal they’re trying to pin down. Even near the end, it seems that it may be a case of knowing who and how without having quite enough evidence to prove it…

This early entry in the series is a relatively simple police procedural, rather than the complex literary game to be found in some of the later novels, but still has Hill’s characteristic style and wittiness. It’s one for all fans of the series, whether your taste runs to the shorter novels or the long, psychologically complex ones, as it sets up some of the series background. Apart from developing Pascoe’s character, it introduces two of the recurring non-police characters. Pascoe is reunited with old university friend Ellie Soper, whom he later marries: and this is the first appearance of Franny Roote, who reappears much later in the series as a major character in a story arc spanning several books. And it is, of course, an entertaining book in its own right.