February 04, 2004

The Wood Beyond
Recalled to Life
Arms and The Women
Dialogues of the Dead

by Reginald Hill

These are four more books in the Dalziel/Pascoe series by Hill. After reading On Beulah Height I just had to find more, it was that good. After a trip to the two Large Chain Bookstores in my area and a side trip to my local independent store, I came home with nothing. Zip, zero, nada. It was exasperating but there is also a mystery bookstore in town; I normally avoid since a visit there is usually a big hit on the wallet, but I called them and, joy!, had them set these aside for me.

Will has reviewed them before and given excellent plot summaries so I will skip that. What struck me reading these so closely together is that each book had several layers and one of them is always a text--a diary, a story, a manuscript--that either mirrors the plot or is key to the mystery the detectives are trying to solve. In Arms and the Women, Ellie Pascoe writes a story about Odysseus and Aeneas meeting on the island of Calypso and bases Odysseus on Dalziel and Aeneas on her husband. In The Woods Beyond, Pascoe's great-great-grandfather's WWI war diary provides the subtext. Fascinating.

Another thing that stands out when dashing thru the books one after the other is the way Hill plays with long words. There were times I literally had to look things up in the dictionary because he was using adjectives and nouns I had never seen before. Ever. Dialogues with the Dead has characters playing a hyped-up version of Scrabble that uses word play and puns in multiple languages and Hill just goes wild tossing off polysyllabic mysteries that beg to be checked on.

Plus the mysteries are so well plotted I almost never figured them out ahead of time. And I find Dalziel compelling. He's a truly gross man, fat, sweaty, cynical and abrasive, but there is something that makes you unable to take your eyes away from him and after a bit you find he's messing around with your mind.

Now I just have to find more of them. There's always Amazon, I guess.

Posted by Deb English at February 4, 2004 07:40 PM