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This is the second Dalziel and Pascoe book, published in 1971. Dalziel and Pascoe, made famous by the TV series, are a seemingly incompatible team, with Dalziel as the brash Superintendent who thinks that education is a waste of time and Pascoe as a recent graduate with a sensitive, more liberal attitude to people. Yet they both grow to have a grudging respect for each other's abilities, which is one of the strengths of the series. In this book, they are still getting to know each other, which makes for some amusing happenings.
Reginald Hill, most famous for Dalziel and Pascoe, has also written another series starring a West Indian private investigator called Joe Sixsmith, as well as several non-series books. Before becoming a writer, he was a teacher at secondary school and college.
During the movement of a statue from one location to another at a college, a body is discovered buried underneath. The hair colour seems to match that of the former head of the college, who was believed to have died in a coach crash overseas several years before. Dalziel and Pascoe are called in to investigate; for Pascoe, this has the advantage of enabling him to rekindle a relationship with an ex-girlfriend from his college days. It is later confirmed that the body is indeed that of the former head.
There are unfortunately a number of suspects who were around at the last time that the head was last seen alive at the college, including numerous members of staff and students, who seem to have links with witchcraft. Then the body of a student who had previously had an affair with a member of staff is found. What did she know that led to her death?
One of the strengths of this book and others in the series is the relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe. Dalziel is blunt, rude and won't stand for any nonsense; Pascoe is educated, with the confidence that only those with bright prospects have. Yet somehow their good qualities rub off on each other and they make an excellent team. Pascoe's budding relationship with Ellie is well-portrayed. The sexual tension between the two of them is palpable. The characterisation of these three alone is enought to make you want to read more in the series.
The villain of the book, who I won't name in case you do choose to read, is also brilliantly portrayed. It is fairly obvious from the start that he is evil, and yet he always seems to have an alibi. He comes up again in future books.
This is one of Reginald Hill's stronger novels, as many of his earlier books were. Not as good as 'On Beulah Height', which I think is his best, but definitely not a bad attempt. One thing Reginald Hill is not scared of is experimenting with the weird and wonderful - this makes for some slightly odd characters in this book and others, which in the hands of a less clever author would probably seem fake, but he can somehow carry it off. The characters are without a doubt the main strength of this book. The plot is also strong, with a good twist at the end. I particularly like the fact that the murders are crimes that can only have been committed by a certain number of people.
The only disadvantage apart from the slightly odd characters is the twists and turns and false alibis - they weren't all necessary and were sometimes hard to follow. On the whole though, I can thoroughly recommend this book.
Available from most High Street book retailers for £6.99, also from Amazon for £5.59. Published by HarperCollins, 352 pages.
Posted on other review sites under the same name.
Book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series.