Reginald Hill wrote a series of good crime novels featuring Peter Pascoe and Andy Dalziel from the fictional mid-Yorkshire police force. Some of these are among the greatest crime fiction I have ever read, especially On Beulah Height and The Wood Beyond. The Death of Dalziel which is sometimes subtitled “Death Comes for the Fat Man” is a good, solid volume in the series and well worth reading, especially for those who have previously read other books in the series.
The book starts with Peter Pascoe being called out to a row of small shops where someone is alleged to have had a gun. Unfortunately the sighting has been made by PC Hector who is mid-Yorkshire’s most unreliable police officer. As Dalziel and Pascoe go to investigate a bomb explodes leaving Dalziel in a coma and fighting for his life. This leaves Peter Pascoe to deal with the incident but Pascoe has been unnerved by the explosion and doesn’t trust anyone, especially the special police officers drafted in because this looks like a terrorist incident.
There are many ongoing themes in this book which centre on not knowing who you can trust. There is also a lot about grief too as people start adjusting to the fact that they may lose Dalziel. Religion is also a theme, as is racism. The book is full of ideas but these never get in the way of a cracking plot as Pascoe becomes involved in trying to unravel what has happened and his friends and family also become involved in what is happening.
In between the detective work we get a glimpse into Dalziel’s unconscious as he wrestles with something that may or may not be God. Pascoe also has a character change and starts behaving more and more like his comatose boss. Pascoe’s wife Ellie features, as does his unnerving daughter. It probably helps if you have met these people before and know a bit about them before you start this book.
This book is a joy to read as a fan of the series and also as someone who enjoys well plotted crime fiction. It touches on some sensitive issues and makes the reader think about their attitudes and how they would feel in a similar situation. An excellent read.