Superintendent Andy Dalziel is on holiday, not that he really knows how to do that. But the wedding of Peter Pascoe has made him take a look at himself and he realises that he needs a break. Before too long, however, he finds himself cut off by flood waters and rescued by a family who have more than their fair share of secrets.
As Dalziel settles in to the household, he discovered that the matriarch of the family is a recent widow, her husband have died after falling off a ladder and a drill conveniently piercing his heart. And when one of the sons of the family disappears, he just can’t help sticking his nose – and other body parts – into the situation…
This is my contribution to Crimes Of The Century #1975book and, I’ll be honest, I’ve been pretty good at picking some of the lesser works from the relevant years. The Red Thumb Mark, The Four Armourers, Slippery Ann, The Twenty-Third Man, Early Morning Murder, A Night Of Errors… I could go on. So I will. The Pleasure Cruise Mystery, Hangman’s Curfew, The Pit-Prop Syndicate, Monk’s Hood… and some of the other ones were a bit iffy too. But one of the stalwarts, especially when its been a recent year, has been Reginald Hill, with A Killing Kindness and Child’s Play. So when 1976 reared its head, I figured, why not go back to Dalziel and Pascoe for this year?
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Reginald Hill was never a writer to produce the same book time after time. His work, even his series work, is one of the most varied outputs of any crime writer. I know that Michael Jecks follows a similar “never the same book twice” theory, but Michael never forgets that he’s writing a mystery novel. Sometimes with Hill, the mystery almost seems shoe-horned in as an afterthought.
He’s much more interested here in writing about the misadventures of Andy Dalziel rather than what’s going on in the house and that, in part, is because there isn’t really that much going on. It took me a while to figure out who’s who in the house, not just because of the way they were introduced but because I really couldn’t care. With little plot of any interest to focus on, with the majority of misdemeanours being committed being very minor, it just didn’t grab me at all. You do get some insight into Dalziel, but no more than usual, and you start to realise that without Pascoe (for most of the book) or Wield, Dalziel is pretty tiresome in large doses.
Reginald Hill produced some classic crime novels in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. This isn’t one of them. One for the fans of the series only.