January 16, 2003

The Wood Beyond, by Reginald Hill

Hill remains true to form in yet another Dalziel/Pascoe mystery. (Incidentally, I've just discovered that the correct pronunciation of the Yorkshire name Dalziel is "Dee-ell".)

The novel begins with the funeral of Pascoe's grandmother Ada, who left a most unusual request in her will--Pascoe is to take her ashes and scatter them about the camp of the West Yorkshire Fusiliers (the "Wyfies"), the regiment in which both her husband and her father fought and died. The request leads Pascoe to a great many unpleasant discoveries about his family history; and for us to the odd, nightmare world of the trenches of the Great War. Hill deftly weaves together the past and present through Pascoe and his forebear--and also through the forebears of the people Dalziel and Pascoe meet in the course of their current investigation. For in World War I it was common in the British Army's county regiments to put folk in squads and companies with their neighbors and (in some cases) brothers and cousins. (Entire families and townships were nearly wiped out by this practice, which has since been abolished.)

By comparison, the present day investigation isn't much, but I have to say I didn't feel short changed. This is yet another outstanding book from Mr. Hill.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 16, 2003 06:47 PM