January 08, 2004

On Beulah Height, by Reginald Hill

This is one of several books I read before Christmas that got put aside and forgotten for a time. Mysteries are the type of book I read but donít retain well which means if they aren't reviewed quickly, they get passed over for more recent fare. This one, however, stuck.

It takes place in a small village in England. Years before the neighboring village had been evacuated and abandoned because a dam had been built, after much local political wrangling, and the village was on the site of the reservoir below it. Just before the villagers leave, little girls begin disappearing. The bodies are never found and the snatchings stop when the village is drowned. The police, including a young Dalziel, never catch the kidnapper though the main suspect is thought to be a slightly touched boy from the village who also disappears after the village is flooded. Then, after years of relative calm, the snatchings begin again. And an older, wiser Dalziel and his partner, Pascoe, are brought in to try to figure out who and why.

There were several things that interested me about the book. One was the mystery within the mystery. In order to figure out the modern crimes, Dalziel must recreate and solve the old crime. The major characters from the previous crime scenes have either died or grown up or moved away and he is working against time and lack of evidence to figure out the mystery. Not to mention that the crime scenes have been under water for years.

The other is the use of diary entries by a young women from the village interspersed into the narrative action. Her story becomes a secondary plot line that weaves it's way into the main criminal investigation. And in the end, how she figures in the whole situation was a complete surprise to me. I didnít see it coming, at all.

It's always a delight to find a new author who writes mysteries with the emphasis on the detection and the puzzle and not on the gory details of the crime. This is one of the latest ones Hill has written and I am doubly delighted to have more to look forward to. I gather there is a long history of cooperation and partnership between the two detectives, Dalziel and Pascoe, that has developed as the books were published. Hopefully, they are all still in print.

Posted by Deb English at January 8, 2004 08:43 PM