Reginald Hill






(Published in North America as DEATH COMES TO THE FAT MAN)
Harper Collins, February 2007
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe had started this beautiful summer day sunbaking in his garden. Then came a phone call from his Commander. Mid-Yorkshire's most inept police officer, Constable Hector, has reported a man with a gun at Number 3 Mill Street, a video rental business. Their superior, Superintendent Andy Dalziel, is in attendance and that's what's worrying the Commander. The Combined Anti-Terrorist Unit (CAT) has the building flagged as being of low-level interest. If Hector is right and there is an armed man inside, the last thing anyone needs is Fat Andy rampaging about with his bullhorn and famed diplomatic skills.

After a period of time crouched down behind a police car with nothing happening, Andy Dalziel throws all procedure to the winds and starts walking towards the building with Pascoe in his wake. There is an explosion, and the next thing Pascoe knows he's lying on the ground finding it difficult to move and he can't hear. Nearby is the inert form of his boss. Only Dalziel's mountainous form between Pascoe and the explosion has prevented Pascoe's death.

As Dalziel lies in a coma hovering between life and death, Pascoe resolves to find the perpetrators who have done this to his close friend and mentor. He finds himself seconded to the CAT unit, a strange mixture of spooks, spies and police with Chief Superintendent Sandy Glenister in charge. Glenister is a hearty Scotswoman with a weakness for blue Smarties. She makes Pascoe welcome, but Pascoe can't decide whether he is genuinely wanted on this investigation or if he's been put there as window dressing and to keep him out of the way.

A shadowy group calling itself the Knights Templar emerges, executing men suspected of terrorist involvement. They seem to have intimate knowledge of CAT's activities. When the unlucky Constable Hector falls victim to a hit and run accident, Pascoe becomes convinced that there has to be a connection between the Knights and the bomb blast that has his friend in a coma. Suspecting there is a mole within the organisation, Pascoe decides to conduct his own investigation. He feels he can't trust anyone within CAT so he turns to the ever-loyal Sergeant Wield for help.

With Dalziel out of action, the focus of this book is almost entirely on Peter Pascoe, who struggles to imagine life without the Superintendent. Much to his consternation he finds also himself compensating by adopting some of Dalziel's abrasive behaviour.

I have to confess that in DEATH OF DALZIEL, I did miss Dalziel's pithy vulgarity. A comatose Dalziel cannot demolish with one well-chosen sentence. However, he does have other ways of making his feelings known.

In Dalziel and Pascoe, author Reginald Hill has created one of the oddest pairings in crime fiction. Dalziel is uncouth and outspoken, Pascoe educated and urbane. Hill has deservedly earned the reputation of being one of the finest crime fiction writers of his generation. His recurring characters are not only fully developed, but they never stand still. Their lives and relationships are constantly changing. Even relatively minor characters have their own individual personalities and quirks.

An author such as Hill creates a dilemma for the reader. Do you devour the book in one sitting or do you read slowly and savour Hill's use of the English language? The very title of the book creates extra suspense. DEATH OF DALZIEL. Surely he wouldn't kill off crime's most uncouth and offensive police officer. Would he? Whether or not this is the last of Andy Dalziel, I'm not saying. You'll have to read the book to find out. Oh, and don't give in to temptation and flip to the back to find out. You'll spoil the ending.

If there was one author I was asked to recommend to a first time crime fiction reader the hands-down winner would be Reginald Hill. Quite simply, crime fiction doesn't come any better than this.

March 2007 review originally published at Murder & Mayhem


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