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I have to admit that the latest Dalziel and Pascoe books that I've read have not particularly impressed me. I thought 'Arms and the Women' was one of the worst books I have read for a long time and 'Dialogues of the Dead', although better, was so complex that I just gave up trying to understand after a while. So I wasn't really expecting this book to be much better. Luckily, I was surprised and Reginald Hill has come up with a plot much more of a standard with his earlier novels.
Pal Maciver is found dead in a locked room, having died in exactly the same way as his father, who committed suicide ten years earlier, even down to the book of Emily Dickinson poetry found by his side. Pal's death is initially put down to suicide, but events occur to point towards it being murder. The main suspect is Pal's stepmother, Kay Kafka, with whom Pal had a stormy relationship. But for reasons unknown to Pascoe and his sergeant, Wieldy, Dalziel, who knows Kay Kafka, refuses to admit that she could have had anything to do with the death.
More prodding finds a complex family relationship between Kay Kafka and her stepchildren; one of whom worships Kay, while the other two hate her. Added to the complications is Tony Kafka, the man who married Kay just a few months after the death of her husband, Pal Maciver Senior, who seems to have dodgy connections in London and further afield. Pascoe and Wieldy are determined to find out the truth, despite Dalziel's efforts to put them off the scent. Just what is his connection with Kay Kafka and why is he so sure that she can have had nothing to do with Pal's death?
Dalziel is probably one of the most outstanding creations in the world of crime fiction. Known as Fat Andy because of his size, he is rude, says what he thinks and yet has a streak of kindness running through him that comes to the fore every now and again. To begin with, Dalziel is suspicious of Pascoe, who is university-educated, and doubts that he has it in him to be a good detective. But somehow, over time, they both come to appreciate each other's strengths and prove to be a formidable pair. Pascoe, much more cultured and sensitive to other's feelings, is the exact opposite of Dalziel. Dalziel's main strength is his Yorkshire brusqueness, which makes for very entertaining reading. Very ably portrayed by Warren Clarke in the TV series.
Another character worth mentioning is Sergeant Wield, known affectionately as Wieldy, who is not known for his looks. He is homosexual and after trying to hide it for many years, has now come out to his close colleagues. As a character, he has grown substantially over time and is now a very close second to Dalziel and Pascoe. Another character, Hat Bowler, fairly new to the police force, has also featured in two or three books now and is clearly another character with potential for success. All in all, excellent characterisation by Reginald Hill, such a relief after some of the blander detectives such as PD James' Dagleish and Peter Robinson's Alan Banks.
Reginald Hill now lives in Cumbria, although he has spent part of his life in Yorkshire, where the Dalziel and Pascoe books are based. Good Morning, Midnight is the twentieth book featuring Dalziel and Pascoe, who first appeared in 'A Clubbable Woman' in 1970. Hill has also written a series of books featuring Joe Sixsmith, a West Indian private investigator, as well as a few non-series books. Dalziel and Pascoe has been televised and as such are Hill's most famous characters. He has won a number of literary prizes for his books.
I was so pleased to see that Reginald Hill is back on form, having been so disappointed in his last couple of books. This time, he has got it spot on, with the strong characters backing up a good plot that has enough twists and turns to keep the reader enthralled, without being over-complicated.
The use of Emily Dickinson's poetry to add a literary aspect to the book is unnecessary, but not surprising in Reginald Hill's work, and didn't really take anything away from the book as far as I was concerned. In case anyone was wondering, the title of the book comes from one of Emily Dickinson's poems:
"Good Morning - Midnight -
I'm coming Home -
Day - got tired of Me -
How could I - of Him?
Sunshine was a sweet place -
I liked to stay -
But Morn - didn't want me - now -
So - Goodnight - Day!"
and refers to the fact that the life of most of the characters in the book is a big pile of dog pooh! Luckily the humour in the book makes up for this, otherwise, it would be far too depressing! A final comment: at 624 pages, the book is very long - a 100 or so pages shorter would have improved it, I think.
I can highly recommend this book. I know Reginald Hill has recently written another non Dalziel and Pascoe book which has received some good reviews, so am looking forward to getting hold of a copy of that as well.
Available from Amazon for £5.59. Published by HarperCollins. ISBN: 0007123434
The title of 'Good morning, Midnight', a crime novel from Yorkshire writer Reginald Hill, refers to a line by American poet Emily Dickenson. Rather bizarrely, it is also a greeting addressed to his lover by DCI Andy Dalziel.
First published in 2004, Hill turns his attention to the post 9/11 world and impending Iraqi invasion. The plot neatly brings in a reference to an earlier novel, and traces US policy back to Irangate, when Ronald Reagan (allegedly?) sold arms to Iran, using the profits to fund right wing forces in Central America. It is not a giant step from the resulting prosecutions to the Enron scandal, the fall out from which manages to drift as far as Yorkshire, England.
You may have seen the series Dalziel and Pascoe on television, based on these novels. The former is a large, uncouth DCI and Pascoe his younger, graduate colleague. In this installment, the first death is that of Pal Maciver, son of a local businessman, who commits suicide in a copycat way after his father. It emerges that Dalziel was in charge of the investigation into the first suicide ten years ago, and seems to have a special relationship with American Kay Kafka, the second wife of the deceased and step son to Pal. However, there is no reason to suggest the son's suicide is anything other a manifestation of personal or family problems
What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the growing 'family' of younger police officers, notably Novello and Bowler, who are each drawn with great care. Not only do they walk in fear of Dalziel, cautiously learning how to handle him, but also increasingly of Pascoe, as his career progresses.
I was pleased to learn that Peter is still married to Ellie (they were having marital problems the last time I saw the TV series, and I have not kept up with all the novels). In many ways Dalziel has become the centre of the book, but here we see his vulnerable side, the implications of which draw his colleagues into his confidence.
If you have not read the earlier books, don't worry, as it is not necessary in order to follow this one. The style is accessible, and makes an enjoyable read for anyone who likes detective fiction that is not too gory or violent, but with a modern twist.
While I do not want to spoil the ending for those who have yet to read it, I would really like to talk about the heart of the novel, which could be summed up as 'who really runs the country?', so I will say no more.
Hill usually acknowledges at least one other author: his first book was homage to The 39 Steps, and I have a suspicion that Peter Pascoe is named after Lord Peter Whimsey.
Stylistically, it reminded me of Eric Ambler- although Dalziel's vernacular term for spooks may break the mould - in particular, his award winning Epitaph for a Spy, set in the Middle East. Ambler uses the device of relating differing accounts and pieces of the jigsaw with a written or recorded oral testimony, which is again usefully deployed here by Hill.
The question is, who to believe, and which part of their testimony to believe?
These sections are quite lengthy, but to me the middle third was the strongest part, when the duo get into their familiar stride. It is quite long, and I do tend to agree with a previous reviewer that the earlier part lags a little. However, it is a thoughtful, masterful book overall, that explores the gamut of modern policing, from the daily grind to arms dealing.
What a pleasure it is to be in the hands of a trusted writer. And Good Morning, Midnight is a reminder of just how good this British crime writer is. Reginald Hill's reputation has been steadily consolidated with some of the most accomplished crime writing in the UK, and his Dalziel and Pascoe novels enjoy a consistency of achievement rare in the genre, with only the occasional misstep. Of course, it's hard these days not to visualise TV actors when we begin a D and P novel, but those adaptations soon seem a world away, so much more sophisticated and atmospheric are the novels. Here, Hill gives us his very individual gloss on a standard crime plot, one that most serious practitioners feel obliged to tackle at least once: the locked room mystery (P D James recently had a crack at the same narrative device). Pal Maciver has committed suicide in a manner similar to that of his father several years ago: the death happening in the classic locked room. Pal's stepmother Kay doesn't enjoy all the negative attention she gets after the death, and although the dependable D S Dalziel is on her side, his help is restricted by a surprising influence--nothing less than as Dalziel's partner, the intractable DCI Pascoe, who regards Kay with suspicion, despite Dalziel's sympathy and support. When a key witness, seductive provider of sexual services Madame Dolores, vanishes, things become very complicated for both detectives--particularly as Pal Maciver's death appears to have many international complications. Will the squabbling Dalziel and Pascoe be able to come to a compromise before further deaths occur?