17 August 2008


Harper, 2007, ISBN 978-0-00-726298-4, 330 pages.
A reprint of the original published by Harper Collins in 1987.

A rather quirky and patchy collection of six items: novellas and short stories, with no apparent connecting theme. The one thing that strikes me after reading this collection is that Reginald Hill is always writing with a purpose, playing with scenarios to see how they pan out.

There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union
This is really a novella. The original message from the Gorodok Building said that a man had fallen down a lift shaft, but what they didn't tell Inspector Lev Chislenko is that, firstly, he had gone through the floor of the lift, much to the horror of its occupants, and, secondly, he had been dead for decades. There is a simple explanation, but of course that is unacceptable, because there are no ghosts in the Soviet Union are there?

Bring Back the Cat!
This is a short story with a twist in the tail. Joe Sixsmith, the private investigator at the centre of a series by Reginald Hill, is asked to investigate the case of the cat who went out and didn't come back. As Joe pieces together the evidence from the family he becomes convinced that the cat has met with foul play in the woods that run behind the house.This is really well written, as each part of the investigation fills in a bit more of the picture.

The Bull Ring
A short story set in World War One, France, on the eve of the Somme. 18 year old Harry Bowden is a farm boy about to become cannon fodder. He's the bane of Corporal Banty Pierce who doesn't seem to be able to get Harry to understand that this is war.

Auteur Theory
This is really odd story. The author warns: Nothing in this story is what it seems. You should remember that. A film crew is making a film of one of Reginald Hill's early books AN ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING. Peter Pascoe falls in love with Ellie Soper. The success of the production is under threat because of uneven acting and the film makers decide to play with the plot even though the author himself, who has actually signed away all his rights to the script, is hanging around like a ghost. Reginald Hill plays with the reader's mind so much in this short story that it hurts, and in the long run it all comes down to a case of murder. I was reminded a bit of "the play within the play" in Hamlet.

Poor Emma
Really a novella. I think this may have been written as a sort of tribute to Jane Austen. I recently became aware of Hill's respect for Austen through what he does in A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES. For me, as a story, this became rather tedious but then I am not a Janeite.

Crowded Hour
Daphne Davis is sitting quietly at home reading a murder mystery. Her husband Ted is out walking the dog. The doorbell rings. She answers the door and two men wielding a shot gun invade her home.In the hour that follows she learns the shocking truth about Ted.

My rating: 3.8
My first inclination was to give a lower rating but writing the review has given me a better appreciation of just how clever some of the writing is.

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