Reginald Hill


Andy Dalziel / Peter Pascal - Detective Superintendent / Inspector - Yorkshire

"Death Comes for the Fat Man"

(Reviewed by Mary Whipple MAY 3, 2007)

"There was no sign of life.  But not for a second did Pascoe admit the possibility of death.  Dalziel was indestructible.  Dalziel is, and was, and forever shall be world without end, amen.  Everybody knew that.  Therein lay half his power.  Chief constables might come and chief constables might go, but Fat Andy went on forever."

Death Comes for the Fat Man by Reginald Hill

In this twenty-second Dalziel and Pascoe mystery, a young Mid-Yorkshire police constable sees a man with a gun at a shabby video store, a place which has been flagged by an anti-terrorist unit for follow-up if any unusual activity is observed there.  The local police, including Det. Supt. Andy Dalziel and Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe, arrive on the scene to investigate this report, just as an earth-shattering explosion takes place.  Both Pascoe and Dalziel are seriously injured, with the hefty Dalziel lying comatose and dying.

Straight-talking Dalziel has always been bold and aggressive, willing to take chances and leave "the book" behind when necessary.  Pascoe, by contrast, is considered a "master of diplomatic reticence."  With Dalziel comatose, however, Pascoe is determined to find out who and what caused the explosion, and he agrees to work with the Combined Anti-Terrorist Unit (CAT) of MI5 and Special Forces as they try to unravel the events at 3 Mill Street.  Pascoe soon finds himself acting on his own, however, becoming very aggressive, as Dalziel has always been.   He feels no compunction about breaking into confidential CAT files, as Dalziel might have done, and he even begins speaking in Dalziel's bold, irreverent manner, rather than in his own usually restrained tone.

Alternating with this narrative about terrorism and the explosion, are Dalziel's out-of-body excursions through his subconscious as he combines nightmarish elements of his past and present and deals with his potentially fatal injuries.  He remembers dancing at the Mecca Ballroom with his old date Tottie Truman, then faces Death, who looks like Constable Hector, an officer described as "the albatross around Mid-Yorkshire Constabulary's neck."  When Hector himself is injured in a hit-and-run accident, his death dreams, too, enter the narrative and provide subtle clues to the mystery.

Several additional plots and subplots ratchet up the action and excitement.  A renegade group of Knights Templar, a "new order of Knighthood," decide to take the law into their own hands, in the spirit of the Crusaders, acting as vigilantes against those they think are terrorists, murdering two people and threatening the life of the imam of the local mosque.  A convert to Islam, Michael Carradice, who is related to Pascoe's wife Ellie, is released from jail after trial on terrorism, only to disappear mysteriously shortly afterward.  The author of a book on the Iraq wars, a former member of the SAS, figures in the semi-conscious dreams of the injured Constable Hector, and Ellie's appearance on TV to publicize her new book leads to new contacts in the local community. 

As is always the case in the Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries, the emphasis on psychological reality is strong.  The backgrounds of the characters are clear, even for those who may not be familiar with earlier novels in this series, and the tensions which evolve between Pascoe, his wife, and daughter, in the wake of the traumatic explosion and Dalziel's injuries, are well developed and realistic.  Though some police characters are more "gung ho" about avenging the injuries to Dalziel and Pascoe than others, most see the world in shades of gray, rather then simply in black and white, as they search for justice and what is right, rather than what is convenient or expected.  As Pascoe says, "Parity of information does not necessarily lead to parity of conclusions," however, and there's plenty of disagreement about the direction of the case.

Author Reginald Hill maintains his tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the novel, from Dalziel's description of Hector ("The nearest Hector ever comes to precision is multiple-choice answers.") to Cap Marvell's attempt to bring Dalziel out of his coma by waving a glass of Lagavulin under his nose, and Dalziel's hilarious out-of-body exchange with his own version of God while Fr. Kerrigan prays for his recovery beside his bed.  The writing is sharp and controlled, and the dialogue sparkles.  The author is firmly committed to moving the action along without meandering, and the novel maintains surprises to the end.  A few loose ends remain at the end, and one would expect that these issues to constitute the next novel in the series.  A terrific mystery, even without the active participation of the great Dalziel.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 31 reviews
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"Death's Jest-Book "

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer NOV 30, 2003)

"I no longer want to be constantly glancing back over my shoulder, fearful that you are out there, driven to pursue me by your own fears. Perhaps one day we may both come to recognize that flying from a thing we dread is not so different from pursuing a thing we love."

Death's Jest-Book by Reginald Hill

The above quote is from a letter, written by Franny Roote to Yorkshire policeman Peter Pascoe. Several times he has linked Franny to different crimes, but only once has he been able to put Roote behind bars. Imagine his surprise, then, when he begins to get a series of letters from the man he is responsible for jailing, letters that Roote insists are not threatening, that they are merely to tell Pascoe about Roote's new life and that all is going well. And indeed, it seems to be. Roote is doing well in academia, researching and lecturing about Samuel Lovell Beddoes and his play, Death's Jest-Book. Yet, when a murder, only just connectable to Roote happens, Pascal is determined to prove that Roote is again the culprit.

Read excerptBut that's not the only story. This book intertwines two other equally exciting tales. Detective Constable Hat Bowler is finally able to be with the woman of his dreams, librarian Rye Pomona. In the last book he thought he had caught a serial killer...little does he know he's sleeping with her.

The third story involves policeman Edgar Weild. One evening he rescues a boy from being pulled into a car and kidnapped, only to find that he's a nineteen year old male prostitute. Out of gratitude for his rescue, the young man begins to bring news and tips to Weild...including one of a planned heist. But will he be able to protect the young man, even as he uses the information?

Even without the clue in the very beginning of the book, where the publisher lists 19 previous Dalziel and Pascoe novels, you get the feeling that a lot of things have happened in the past that effect this book. This makes it a little harder to get into, because while I love the feeling of history it gives, it's almost like jumping in on the middle of a conversation. After a little while, though, I caught the rhythm, I understood exactly who the other conversants were and began to really enjoy this huge, intricately done book. First thing I'd like to say is, yes, Dalziel is in this book, despite the fact I don't mention him in the summary...and a fantastic part he plays, too. He's hilarious, takes no prisoners, (well, not literally) and often lightens the book when it gets too serious.

Hill is one amazing plotter. You have to admire someone who can take three very different stories and weave them in so that they are equally exciting and involving. Not only this, but his subtle connections in between the other stories are perfect...creating surprises that make sense. The main story between Roote and Pascal is particularly cool, because you don't know what's going on...is Pascal right, or does he just hate Roote? Is Roote a well meaning, if a bit weird, guy, or is he a clever murderer, enjoying playing with Pascal's and the reader's minds through his long, detailed letters? You almost get to liking Roote. Strangely enough, you like Rye, as well, feeling badly for her. Her and Hat Bowler's story is particularly moving, because they genuinely love each other, and you know that, as story logic runs, they can't possibly be together.

Illustrated with plates from the creepily talented Hans Holbein the Younger's Dance of Death, it is a precise and strong book, one that gives back a lot to its reader.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 23 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Death's Jest-Book at MostlyFiction.com



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Stand-alone Novels:

Dalziel & Pascoe Series

Joe Sixsmith Novels:

Originally written as Patrick Ruell

Movies from books:

  • Dalziel and Pascoe (37 episodes, 1996-2006)
  • A Pinch of Snuff (1994)
  • The Last Hit (1993) (based on The Long Kill)

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Reginald HillReginald Hill was born in 1936 in West Hartlepool, County Durham. He grew up in Cumbria. After a few years of Army Service he to St. Catherine's College, Oxford where he earned a B.A. in English. Hill taught secondary school and college until 1980, when he decided to pursue writing full-time.

Reginald Hill has written over forty books in many genres, from historical novels to science fiction, widely published both in England an the United States. He has received Britain's most coveted mystery writers award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement, as well as the Golden Dagger Award for the Dalziel/Pascoe series. He also writes another mystery series featuring Joe Sixsmith for St. Martin's Press, and pens thrillers under the name Patrick Ruell.

He lives with his wife, Patricia (Ruell), in Cumbria, England.

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