October 14, 2002

A Pinch of Snuff, by Reginald Hill

I bought this on the recommendation of one of my correspondents; I'm glad I did.

A Pince of Snuff is a gritty police procedural set in England; it features a pair of directives, Detective-Superintendant Andrew Dalziel, and his subordinate Detective-Inspector Peter Pascoe. It reminds me of Peter Lovesey's Peter Diamond series, in an inverted sort of way. Diamond is fat, gruff, and given to plain speaking; so is Dalziel. Diamond is an old school detective; so is Dalziel. Diamond has a younger subordinate who's gotten special training in new ways of doing things; so had Dalziel. Diamond frequently has to put his subordinate in his place; so does Dalziel. Diamond finally puts all of the pieces together; so does Dalziel.

The difference is, Peter Lovesey's books are written from Diamond's point of view; Hill is writing (in this book, anyway) from the subordinate's point of view. There's an interesting complementarity here. The other main difference is that Lovesey gets more into the heads of the other characters than Hill does; and Hill is correspondingly more gritty, as is hinted at by the title--A Pinch of Snuff as in "snuff films".

I've been told that no genuine snuff film has yet been found by the authorities, though they loom large in urban legendry thanks to books like this one. If you're fortunate enough not to have encountered the term, I think that I won't enlighten you; a Google search will likely tell you more than you want to know.

That said, the details in Hill's book aren't nearly as disturbing as those in Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novel (I forget the name) that involved snuff films. Or, for that matter, as disturbing as An Exchange of Hostages, which I reviewed last month.

I tend to prefer mysteries more toward the "cozy" end of the spectrum, and I'll admit that I enjoy Peter Diamond more than Dalziel and Pascoe. Nevertheless, this is a good police procedural and I enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading more of Hill's work.

Posted by Will Duquette at October 14, 2002 05:51 PM