A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES
Reginald Hill

 


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Harper Collins, Mar 2008
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

To begin with, I have one confession and one warning. Reginald Hill is my absolute favourite author. I could read his shopping list and rave about it, so I make no pretence here of objectivity.

Now the warning. If you have yet to read Reginald Hill’s DEATH OF DALZIEL (published in the U.S.A. under the title DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN) then stop right now. Don’t read any further, because it is impossible to write a review of A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES without creating a spoiler for Hill’s previous Dalziel and Pascoe novel.

That sorted, on to A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, which opens with Andy Dalziel reluctantly languishing in a convalescent home after his brush with death in a bomb blast. Sitting around doing nothing and being poked and prodded by all and sundry on the nursing staff doesn’t sit well with Andy. He’s tetchy and dying for a cleansing ale at a pub. As part of his recovery therapy Andy has been given a little hand held recorder in which he is expected to record his thoughts. At first he scoffs at the idea, but then somehow he finds himself talking to this contraption which he has christened “Mildred”.

Into the town comes Charlotte Heywood, a newly graduated psychologist who is thinking of writing a paper about the psychology of alternative therapies. There’s no shortage of practitioners around Sandytown. Andy discovers Charlotte is the daughter of an old rugby foe and the two become friends.

There is a lot of development being planned for Sandytown, not all of it popular. When one of the developers is found murdered, Peter Pascoe and the team are called in. Andy isn’t used to having to sit on the sidelines of an investigation as he has no official status, how can he not become involved?

In the dedication of the book Reginald Hill wrote in part: “To Janeites everywhere”. If you’ve read Jane Austen you’ll quickly discover why. If you haven’t (like me) then it will sail over your head and it doesn’t really matter anyway. I won’t give away the reason for the dedication. It will be an extra layer for Austen fans.

The story is told from the point of view of a number of characters. First and foremost is Dalziel’s conversations with “Mildred”. Charlotte’s perspective takes the form of long, chatty (and poorly spelled) emails to her sister in Africa. Various members of the investigation team, Pascoe, Wield, Novello and Bowler also get a look-in from their perspectives.

A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES also sees a shift in the dynamics of the relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe. Pascoe feels he is ready to spread his wings without Dalziel looking over his shoulder. With Pascoe in charge, Sergeant Wield is seeing a change in him. He thinks Pascoe is starting to exhibit traits that are decidedly Dalzielesque!

There are some who found the emails a distraction with the poor spelling and grammar. I didn’t. I enjoyed the quirkiness of them. A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES is Reginald Hill’s twenty-third Dalziel and Pascoe novel and it is a testimony to his skill as a writer that number twenty-three is as fresh and compelling as all his others.

June 2008

 

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