20 May 2008


Harper Collins, 2008, 535 pages.

Incapacitated by what he refers to as "the big bang in Mill Street", Andy Dalziel finds that none of those who are near and dear to him want to take him on in his convalescence, and so he takes Ellie Pascoe's advice and books in at the Avalon in Sandytown. As we know the sea air is good for the health, and there is nothing like a seaside holiday for restoring health.

Sandytown is dominated by three families: the Parkers, Denhams and Hollises, very much intertwined and wanting between them to turn the sleepy little seaside resort into something much grander with a 5 star hotel, clinics, and health resort. Just the thing for the convalescent. But under the apparently united front of the Sandytown Development Consortium simmer tensions that go back decades. And then they result in the death of Lady Denham herself. That's when Peter Pascoe and his team move in to investigate.

But what of Andy Dalziel? He's supposedly on sick leave, but he desperately wants to be included, noticed, and consulted. Peter Pascoe on the other hand relishes the idea of running his own investigation yet again, but is he ready? How will he deal with Fat Andy sticking his nose in?

This is a fascinating read, and for me, doing some thinking about it, and some research afterwards, paid off, and I felt like I'd struck gold. For one thing I think Reginald Hill must have really enjoyed writing it.

There really are some things about this novel that I can't discuss, because, for the reader, working out what Hill has done here is part of the pleasure. This is another of those books that is not just crime fiction, but is also a literary work. It reveals a side of Reginald Hill that I hadn't known was there.

Getting used to the multiple points of view that reveal the story takes some effort. First of all there are the emails that Charley Heywood is sending to her sister; then the voice of Dalziel himself talking into a recorder given to him by his doctor for therapy. These two voices dominate the first volume, the first third of the novel. Then later in the novel we see the story not only from these points of view, but also from those of the individuals in the investigating team.

The structure of the novel is interesting too: A NOVEL in six volumes, it says on the title page. And throughout, even on the title pages of each volume, Reginald Hill has left little clues like little Easter eggs. Get too complacent about them and you'll miss what he's up to.

Reginald Hill dedicated this novel "To Janeites everywhere". He says this novel has been ten years in the making, from seeds sown when he visited the Jane Austen Society's of North America's AGM. Reginald Hill wrote this novel not only for crime fiction readers, for those eagerly awaiting the next Dalziel & Pascoe, but also for those who know their Jane Austen. My advice to you, dear reader, read everything.

My rating: 5.0


Anonymous said...

I thought this was a wonderful read, and was glad who did it was a surprise. I must say though, that I missed Ellie and Rosie Pascoe, although surely their absence is only temporary.

Kerrie said...

Hello Sarah
I thought these links might interest you

Jim's Words Music and Science said...

Thanks for the enticing review! I've read "A Spy's Wife" and "Arms and the Women" and found them both to be very good, if not better.

Thanks also for putting my site, Nearly Nothing but Novels, on your blog roll. I'll reciprocate right away.

I've been writing so much about the environment and politics lately at greenchemistry.wordpress.com that I have a big backlog of fiction and crime fiction to review, including Icelandic murders. I hope to write all of this up soon...

My mother, who is Australian, is on my cousin's farm in Western NSW at the moment after good visits with her sister in Darwin, cousins in Sydney, and a stop in Brisbane, the location of her old school and nurse training hospital. She is 80 and is traveling with my younger sister. I wish I were there.

I look forward to reading through your archives. Best wishes, Jim (chemrat)

Kerrie said...

Jim, I could have give this 5+ really

Anonymous said...

Interesting I've been waiting for an opportunity to discuss Reginald Hill's book with someone. I enjoyed reading "A Cure for all Diseases" but not necessarily as much as previous books. Perhaps "not just crime fiction, but is also a literary work" was the issue for me.

Emails that Charley Heywood is sending to her sister were part of the issue -- I didn't like the use of italics.

Kerrie said...

Hello Sue
My appreciation of what Hill had done in terms of Sanditon in particular grew after I had finished reading, and as I was reflecting on what sort of questions to pose for the oz_mystery_readers discussion.
I posted the first 3 of the questions in my blog last Sunday - you might like to look at them.
It's the blog for June 15
Many of the group did not like email POV and I also find italics harder to read than plain Roman script

Kerrie said...

Sunnie's review is at


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