A Tour de Force. That’s what this book was intended to be, but it fell a bit short. Instead, this is a well-written, though a bit overly-long, novel of crime, murder and police work in Yorkshire, U.K. As usual, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe, along with the rest of the crew at Mid-Yorkshire CID, is hot on the heels of criminals engaged in multiple crimes. The story involves multiple, simultaneous plot lines that are complex, but not confusing. A reader would, however, find it helpful to have read the preceding book in the series, <i>Dialogues of the Dead,</i> before tackling this novel. Most of the familiar characters in Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series of novels make an appearance in this story, so an acquaintance with the characters would be helpful to any reader.
The book was written by British crime writer Reginald Hill and first published by HarperCollins in Great Britain in 2002. The paperback version (which is the one I read and am reviewing) was copyrighted by the author in 2008, and published by HarperCollins in 2009. At 669 pages, this is not a short story, or a thin book.
Clearly, the author intended this novel to be his signature work of fiction, and it probably is, but barely. The story is too long to be a good mystery or police procedural, but it is masterfully written. Although the story drags a bit in some places, especially in the descriptions of the letters written by Franny Roote and sent to DCI Peter Pascoe, the author seems to bring the multiple plot threads together at the end. There are, however, several loose ends that are left untied — Frere Dierick, and the lawyer, Marcus Belchamber, for example. I also found the ending to be vaguely unsettling. It appears that the author has set the stage for another sequel because at the end of the story, we are left wondering about what will happen next to Pascoe and Detective Constable Hat Bowler. I would like to have seen a neater conclusion to the story.
You should read this book if you are a fan of the author, or of the genre. You should, however, be sure to read <i>Dialogues of the Dead</i> first. I rated that one an unambiguous five stars. I liked this book, but it is not the author’s best work. I flirted with an award of four stars, but felt that, after all, the story probably really deserves a five-star rating, so that is what I awarded.