The town promotes good health – then someone dies

I have long been a fan of Reginald Hill’s crime writing and especially his books starring Dalziel and Pascoe. There were a couple of series made for television based on the books and I enjoyed the one featuring Colin Buchanan and Warren Clarke even if the programmes diverged significantly from the books after the first few episodes – I still have the faces of the actors playing the main characters in my head when I read the books.

I am currently rereading this series and have come to book 21 A Cure for All Diseases. This follows on directly from The Death of Dalziel which I review here. Not unexpectedly, Andy Dalziel is not dead at all but his experiences and injuries sustained in the previous case have resulted in him having to have rehabilitation to recover his fitness. To do this he enters a residential/nursing home in the fictional seaside resort of Sandytown (which to me rather resembles Scarborough). He is soon heavily embroiled in the local happenings and is a witness to much which will be useful when a murder takes place and his own team are called in to investigate.

This book is told partly as an audio diary by Andy Dalziel himself. This is excellent as we don’t often get his point of view in the books and his way of looking at things is unique and highly entertaining. Part of the story is also told in a series of emails by one of the characters who is new on the scene and is writing her impressions to her sister who is in Africa. The two have very different narrative voices and see the same events from their own point of view. I love books told in letter or diary form so I enjoyed this and I also liked the way that the existence of both the emails and the diary become part of the story too.

The woman who has been murdered is a local dignitary with lots of relatives from her several marriages. She wants to increase the profile of Sandytown so that her businesses will make more money but there are a lot of people in town who don’t like her. There are lots of other characters, all interconnected and many of whom have motives for the murder. In fact, I thought that there were a few too many characters which meant that lots of people had motives but a few of them didn’t feature much in the book and only made a few appearances. I felt that the cast list could have been trimmed down a bit. For those of us who have followed the series the investigators are already familiar and I really wouldn’t recommend this book if you haven’t previously met them as the author does take your recognition of them for granted. There is also a series recurring character, Franny Roote, who seems to exist to make life complicated for the team (and also for the reader).

Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe books are great crime stories. Each one is slightly different and the author experiments with lots of styles and ways of telling crime stories. This book is based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon and it is interesting to see how the author has brought the characters into the modern day. This is not the best book in the series (that is On Beulah Height which I review here) but it is a very enjoyable read and it is entertaining to see Dalziel vulnerable for a change – although, of course, he does have the last word.

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