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by Reginald Hill
HarperCollins, February 2004
400 pages
ISBN: 000712340X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Reginald Hill has been turning out A1 crime fiction since what feels like forever. I'm usually leaping up and down at the front of the queue when a new Dalziel and Pascoe book is out, but the last two, DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD and DEATH'S JEST-BOOK didn't quite hit the mark. By anyone else's standards they were polished, ambitious writing. But by Hill's they meandered up hill and down dale and seemed too damn clever by half.

But I can reveal GOOD MORNING, MIDNIGHT, the 21st (yes, really) featuring the mismatched pair of detectives from Yorkshire, is a cracker. And it works simply because Hill is back to what he does best -- witty dialogue, twisty plotting and, at the centre, a dysfunctional extended family with too many secrets to hide -- without ever making you feel he's coasting or going back over old ground.

In something straight out of a Jonathan Creek episode, antiques dealer Pal (short for Palinurus) Maciver is found dead inside a locked room. To all intents and purposes he has shot himself in exactly the same way as his father committed suicide ten years previously.

But Detective Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe is suspicious. And he gets even more nosy when his superior Superintendent Andy Dalziel stonewalls his enquiries. Pascoe is determined to find out whether it was suicide or murder -- and also what the nature of Dalziel's relationship is with Maciver's hated stepmother, the glamorous American Kay Kafka. And just what does Goth prostitute Dolores have to do with the price of eggs?

Hill's trump card is that familiar cast of CID characters -- the mountainous foul-mouthed Dalziel, who has the subtlety of a flying sledgehammer; university graduate Pascoe who's not quite as green as he seems; poker-faced gay sergeant Wield (my personal favourite!) and Detective Constable with attitude Shirley 'Ivor' Novello. Part of my problem with the previous two books was that I never quite took to the new DC 'Hat' Bowler, who mooned around far too much for his own -- and the books' -- good. We don't see too much of him in GOOD MORNING, MIDNIGHT, as he's still on the sicklist, but he does have a rather appealing cameo role. And, thank heavens, we don't get too much of the frightful Ellie Pascoe, who is up there with Faye Kellerman's Rina Decker as one of the most annoying spouses in crime fiction!

And there's a cracking supporting cast -- lazy PC Jack 'Joker' Jennison, who has the comic timing of a master; scary new fitness fanatic sergeant 'Bonkers' Bonnick, and Inspector Cedric 'Paddy' Ireland, a teetotal Baptist Yorkshireman, who, much to his bemusement, is treated as the resident expert on the Emerald Isle.

Don't go away thinking it's all knockabout slapstick with Hill, because it isn't. He's a wordsmith in the true sense in that he adores language and playing around with words. You can guarantee you'll be sent scuttling to the dictionary at least half a dozen times each book. And he does a fine job of juggling international politics, secret service spooks and a seemingly innocent suicide, whilst Emily Dickinson's gnomic poetry resonates in the background. And every so often we pick up the very faintest of echoes from Dalziel of his own mortality.

Oh, and the BBC should be salivating over GOOD MORNING, MIDNIGHT. They've done Hill proud with their dramatisations of the books -- Warren Clarke was born to play Dalziel -- but have run out of novels and are now reduced to using the characters in other settings. Oh well, at least they wrote Ellie Pascoe out long ago . . .!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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