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I read this title years ago as a paperback or library book but was recently tempted to buy the ebook version too, as a handy keepsake. Seeing an old episode of the excellent TV series prompted me to action. I am a great fan of Reginald Hill and believe I've read everything he ever wrote. I thought he was an accomplished writer and was very sad when he died in 2012. I can't afford to buy all his works in ebook form but may treat myself to one or two more at a later date, for old times' sake.
I'm sure that, if it weren't for the TV series of Dalziel and Pascoe, I would not have been listening to this abridged version of a crime story that was originally published in 1971. This audio version was narrated by Warren Clarke, which was great for the voice of Dalziel, but confusing when Pascoe spoke.
I've only ever read one other Daliziel and Pascoe story, which was set in a beer swilling rugby club, where Dalziel felt at home. This time Pascoe and I were both more comfortable on a university campus, where the ex-principal's remains are found under a statue that is to be removed in the wake of modernisation. Members of staff and students are all suspects when not one, but two further murders occur.
I thought I was going to rate this higher, but the denouement was disappointing and the murderer(s) seemingly selected at random from the choices available. Possibly this lost something by being abridged, no doubt some clues had been omitted, but there seemed little evidence to allow Dalziel and Pascoe to arrive at their conclusion.
I would listen to another abridgment from this series, if one came my way, but I doubt I would be inclined to read a full length book. They are now very dated in comparison to crime novels currently available.
The second Dalziel and Pascoe novel sees the pair at a college of higher education after the discovery of a corpse under a statue's foundation block. Naturally, life gets even more complicated, and not just because they have to wade through both student and staff politics in their pursuit of the truth. Fresh corpses are provided, and it's up to Dalziel and Pascoe to decide which were murder and which were suicide, ideally without becoming corpses themselves. Dalziel has no time for students, and the feeling's mutual. But Dalziel doesn't let his dislike lead him into underestimating his opponents, while the students make the mistake of thinking that Dalziel's a fascist pig and therefore stupid. Pascoe's feelings are more ambiguous, as he was a graduate recruit to the police force. His former university friends don't approve of his choice of his career, and his liberal sympathies don't always endear him to his colleagues, but this case reassures him that being a copper was the best way for _him_ to change the world for the better. The pair's different experiences and views combine to form a formidable team in this setting, something they'll need to deal with the criminal they're trying to pin down. Even near the end, it seems that it may be a case of knowing who and how without having quite enough evidence to prove it... This early entry in the series is a relatively simple police procedural, rather than the complex literary game to be found in some of the later novels, but still has Hill's characteristic style and wittiness. It's one for all fans of the series, whether your taste runs to the shorter novels or the long, psychologically complex ones, as it sets up some of the series background. Apart from developing Pascoe's character, it introduces two of the recurring non-police characters. Pascoe is reunited with old university friend Ellie Soper, whom he later marries: and this is the first appearance of Franny Roote, who reappears much later in the series as a major character in a story arc spanning several books. And it is, of course, an entertaining book in its own right.
When a statue is moved and the body of a woman who was supposed to have died in Austria five years before appears Dalziel and Pascoe are called to the scene. I’ve always liked books set in college or similarly cloistered settings and this one has the usual array of oddball academics. Quite excellent if you enjoy that sort of thing (which I do).
Hill as an author is a recent find. He is very much an English writer. He has found a good cop pairing and the wit and banter is amusing. The plot is a tadge bizarre and the characters are not always plausible. It's a gentle entertaining read to a three star level and good enough to carry on with other books in the series.