Last year I read my first Reginald Hill: A Clubbable Woman and enjoyed it tremendously but it has taken me more than a year to read the second outing of Hill’s detective duo.
Holm Coultram College is facing some very rough weather. First a student, Anita Swell, who had been suspended from the college because of her low grades, accuses her Biology professor, Sam Fallowfield for deliberately fudging her marks as he wanted her out of the college after sexually abusing her. Then when a memorial statue constructed in honour of former principal, Miss Alison Girling, is being shifted to another site, bones and skulls are discovered buried beneath the statue. With the staff divided and poisoned barbs being exchanged, the students are itching to have their rebellion. Things worsen when a student is found murdered. Is there a connection between the two murders? Dalziel finds himself out of depth in an ‘intellectual’ environment while the University educated Pascoe is troubled by finding an old flame, Ellie Soper, as a faculty.
Like the first in the series, I enjoyed this book tremendously. Of course, it is terribly sexist, like the first one and certainly not to be recommended to male relatives** yet it is great fun. Hill seems to have had a whale of a time while writing this and having some bawdy fun. First the surnames: Fallowfield, Saltecombe, Halfdane, Lapping, Cockshut… are these for real???!! Then the vastly entertaining telephonic conversation between Pascoe and an Austrian policeman. The spectre of Harold Lapping, who does bird-watching of a different kind, passing through corridors and rooms is likewise amusing as is Pascoe getting information and buying icecreams for the kids. The mystery too is pretty good.
After finishing the novel, I was also curious about the relationship between Pascoe and Ellie and wondered whether she’d make a reappearance. From their first uncomfortable meeting when Pascoe thinks of how passion can die out (surprisingly touching lines in a novel with so much of tongue-in-cheekiness) to their subsequent tentative contacts, I quite liked how the author depicted their relationship. Now, thanks to the reviews I read subsequently after finishing the novel, I know the direction their relationship will take but am still interested in how things progress to that point.
So, all in all, this has made me all the more keen to get to the next in the series. From the chapter provided at the end of this book, I feel that it is going to be very much personal for Pascoe but also terribly tragic so I will wait for a little time before I get on to it. Thankfully Open Library has a good collection of Hill’s works.
First Line: There had been a great deal of snow that December, followed by hard frost.
Publication Details: 1971. London: Harper Collins, 2015
Series: Dalziel and Pascoe #2
Have you read the book? Share your views.
** my sister still has nightmares about recommending Keigo Higashino to a cousin’s husband who went and picked-up Journey Under the Midnight Sun!!