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by Reginald Hill
HarperCollinsUK, March 2003
400 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007123442

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sam Johnson had been working on a life of Beddoes when he was killed. Franny Roote, Peter Pascoe's nemesis, had been declared Johnson's literary executor by Sam's sister, "Loopy Linda" Lupin, a Tory member of the European Parliament. Roote is presenting a paper on DEATH'S JEST BOOK at an academic conference.

Meanwhile, DC "Hat" Bowler is recovering from a fractured skull, received when he rescued the love of his life, librarian Rye Pomona, from the perceived attack by her boss, Dick Dee, who is now dead.

Pascoe takes his daughter to a lesson one Saturday morning and he apparently sees Roote staring at him from behind a gravestone in a nearby churchyard. Has Pascoe's obsession with Franny driven him round the bend?

Rye and Hat return from a dirty weekend to find Rye's flat burgled. It's a mess but apparently nothing is missing. The Chinese vase containing the ashes of her twin brother, who died in an auto accident when they were 15, has been broken and the ashes dumped out. Rye decides it is time to let go.

Wieldy saves what appears to be a young boy from a molester. The "youngster" turns out to be a 19 year old rent boy who doesn't remember his family. He starts feeding information to Edgar, who is afraid that the boy expects something from Wield that he is not prepared to give. He's out of the closet, but doesn't flaunt it at the station.

Everyone is tired of Pascoe's aberrant insistence that Roote is the cause of all his troubles and that if Dick Dee was not the murderer dubbed, "The Wordman" (see DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD), then Franny Roote was. Meanwhile, Rye Pomona is getting killer headaches, which she keeps secret. Pascoe has wrongly accused Franny Roote several times before. This time it will be the end. Over all lies the giant shadow of the Fat Man, DS Andy Dalziel.

DEATH'S JEST BOOK is as compelling reading as all the other Dalziel and Pascoe novels but only Fat Andy and Edgar Wield come out as sympathetic characters. However, unlike most of the other books in this long series, this cannot be read alone, since it is a sequel to DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, May 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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