Saturday, August 25, 2012

Under World: Reginald Hill

I recently read Under World, the 10th novel in the Dalziel and Pascoe series written by Reginald Hill. I had not read any of the books in this series for a few years, although I was familiar with the main cast (Superintendant Dalziel, Detective Inspector Pascoe, and Pascoe's wife Ellie).

I have struggled to come up with a brief description that conveys the flavor of the book. I think this one at Felony & Mayhem does it best:
The small mining town of Burrthorpe is economically depressed and mistrustful of strangers—and cops. The return of handsome and volatile Colin Farr, whose dead father was once implicated in a child murder case, seems to dig up all the old troubles and bring on some new ones. Farr flirts dangerously with Ellie Pascoe and quickly becomes a suspect himself, in the murder of his nemesis. It is this latest event that brings out Andy Dalziel, just the man to help Pascoe out of the dark tunnels of the case.
The novel, published in 1989, is set in Yorkshire, and deals with turmoil in a mining community in the years after the 1984 miners’ strike. The strike caused changes in the lives of everyone who lived there. I know very little about mining here in the US or in the UK, and this was an eye opener for me.

Ellie Pascoe gets involved with the young Colin, who takes a class from her at the local university. Not involved romantically but in the troubles he and his family experience as a result of a crime that occurred a few years earlier. I will admit that I found Ellie's willingness, almost enthusiasm, to get involved in something that could be detrimental to her husband's job curious and irritating, and she is an abrasive personality. But I do understand that this is part of her character and provides a way to explore themes beyond straight detection of crimes. And it is very small criticism.

Hill's writing is superb, and every book I have read by him has entertained and educated me. I like the partnership of the rough and crude Dalziel with the more refined and sensitive Pascoe, and I appreciate the respect they find for each over time. In most cases, I don't care for out and out humor in a mystery novel. However, Hill writes with subtle humor, especially in the interactions of Ellie and Pascoe and Pascoe's reactions to both Ellie and Dalziel.

I would not say this is my favorite of the series so far, but it is still an excellent novel. The novels I like the best were An Advancement of Learning, set in academia, and the novel in which Pascoe meets Ellie; and Deadheads, which is not a traditional police procedural. In Deadheads, each chapter is the name of a rose. One of the main characters, Patrick Alderman, is a rose enthusiast. Deadheading is the process of clipping off dead flowers from a plant to encourage more flowering.

A Clubbable Woman was his first novel, and the first in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. The series has a total of 24 titles, so I have 14 more to read. And I have copies of them all.

Reginald Hill was born in 1936 at West Hartlepool, and died this year. He worked as a schoolmaster and a college lecturer until he began writing full time in 1980. He received the Gold Dagger for Bones and Silence (1990) and in 1995 he won the CWA’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.

Hill was a prolific writer, and wrote standalone novels, one other series, and some books under other names. From his obituary at the Guardian:
Hill was best known for his crime novels about Dalziel and Pascoe, which were adapted for BBC television from 1996 to 2007. It was not until 1980, when he became a full-time writer, that he realised that his books about the detective duo were his "banker", just as Ruth Rendell regarded her Inspector Wexford books as her "bread and butter". Even so, he refused to turn out one a year – the norm for crime writers with a series – preferring instead to alternate them with thrillers, historical novels, science fiction and, later, a smaller humorous series set in Luton, featuring the black private detective Joe Sixsmith.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge

A-Z Challenge

Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge  


Katrina said...

Thanks, I've been thinking of reading one of Hill's books for ages and now I know where to start. There are lots of his books in my local library.

Peggy Ann said...

God post, Tracy! I have not read any Hill books but this review definitely makes me want to. I will be on the look out for them? My library does have some!

TracyK said...

Peggy Ann and Katrina, Glad this post was useful to you. Reginald Hill is a wonderful writer and I wish I had time to read more of his books myself.