A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill

A Killing KindnessYorkshire, 1980, and Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe have  a serial killer on their hands. The Yorkshire Choker is strangling young women and then calling the local paper with quotations from Hamlet. Andy Dalziel is more than capable of dealing with your average murderer. But he’s going to have to deal with more a murderer this time…

Psychics, linguists, psychologists. They all have something to say to the police to help them with their enquiries. And Dalziel has something he wants to say to them. One word, four letters, followed by the word “Off”. But as the deaths continue and the police seem to be making little progress, any help is better than no help. Isn’t it?

Fifteen book reviews in fifteen days. Wow. This is probably the end of the streak, but it’s a second entry for Past Offences Crimes Of The Century #1980book. Also it finishes with the same team as it started with a fortnight ago. It’s the sixth Dalziel and Pascoe book and probably the one that I remember the most clearly from the first time I read it. Anyone who’s read the book will know why – something about it is particularly memorable and the identity of the Choker is linked to that, so I went into the book knowing who the murderer was.

And I think this didn’t help for a second read. I know I enjoyed it the first time, but this time round, I could see that there’s a lot of red herring here. There are two very clear indications of the murderer’s identity, and I think the non-memorable one was actually pretty obvious (and also should raise questions in the Yorkshire police force). But, as I said, I enjoyed it immensely the first time round, so I guess it’s the benefit of inside knowledge that made it obvious to me this time.

But the characters – Dalziel and Wield in particular, I still have trouble warming to the Pascoes – are what makes the book still worth taking a look at. Dalziel is a storming creation – a politically incorrect animal (or is he?) and the implacable Wield gets some more depth here as his sexuality is revealed for the first time.

Any indications of its 1980 setting? Well, the repeated use of the word “Gypsy” isn’t something that you’ll see nowadays, in the UK at least. And Ellie Pascoe’s politics come across as somewhat dated as well – she does seem very contrary for her own sake at times.

So, not as strong as Child’s Play on re-reading it, but if you haven’t read it before, it’s Highly Recommended.

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14 comments

  1. I think if you’d read it, you’d remember it. There is something about it that has made me recall the name of the killer before I even picked it up this time, after probably twenty-plus years…

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    • Yeah you get the impression that he really wanted to use that trick, and it kind of upstaged the rest of the novel. I like Hill’s writing, so I’m happy to read most of his stuff, but this did feel like a weaker effort. His books often show very tight construction or extraordinary flights of fancy, but here he seemed to be going through the motions a bit.

      And yeah, Ellie Pascoe always seems like she’s been shipped in from a less plausible series. It’s not clear why Hill chose to make her as unsympathetic as she is.

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  2. Not that I need another mystery series to read, but do you recommend reading the Dalziel and Pascoe series in order, or doesn’t it matter? I’ve read a few of them and liked them.

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    • There are some character developments that you’ll get more out of from reading them in order but no plot spoilers… I think. There might be an exception iirc with Death’s Jest Book which might spoil the preceding Dialogues Of The Dead, so there may be others.

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  3. I never warmed to these characters on television probably because of the actors who played the parts. I just couldn’t like them. But you’ve made this book sound intriguing and I like being intrigued. I think I’ll line it up at the library.

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    • Ah. If you didn’t like the characters on TV, you might have the same issue with the books. In particular Warren Clarke who was spot on with his Dalziel… But the books are worth it – I’ll be revisiting the series from the start soon.

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  4. I was never sure about Warren Clarke as Dalziel he always seemed to me to play him as a bit too out of control at times. The big man might get angry in the books but I always saw him as on top of things and even when angry there was the impression of a calculating mind behind it.

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      • I think the characterisation flaw (IMHO) that I was talking about only really came to the fore in the later episodes, where the character’s bouts of ill temper came across more as peevish than angry. So if you have seen the earlier episodes then your impression of the playing is understandable. In any event Clarke’s portrayal was quite a bit better than the attempt by the comedians Hale & Pace to portray Dalziel and Pascoe.

        Maybe it is because I was reading the books long before the TV series but I see Dalziel as a much more imposing figure than anyone who has portrayed him so far. The nearest I can come to in terms of actors is Stratford Johns as Barlow in Z-cars and Softly, Softly if you remember those. Maybe it is because he played an abrasive, northern police detective in those series but I also think that his physical presence also fits the bill.

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