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by Reginald Hill
HarperCollins, March 2008
400 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007252676

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Supt Andy Dalziel didn't meet his maker in THE DEATH OF DALZIEL, but it was a close-run thing. So A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES finds him recuperating (most unwillingly) in the seaside town of Sandytown where he can pit his wits against a razor-sharp matron and a smarmy American quack.

A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES takes a while to get going, and for the first time ever (wash my mouth out with soap and water), I found myself faintly bored by a Reginald Hill book. The cause of this was the narrative device of using emails as information dumps. I can see why Hill did it, and it makes sense when the story starts to motor, but it really gummed up the start of the book, not least because these are loooooong emails, complete with the obligatory spelling mistakes and lack of punctuation, and are therefore swines to read!

The emails are from Charley Heywood, a feisty young psychologist, who's writing to sister Cassie who's off working in Africa. In the end I resigned myself to having to go back and re-read later if necessary. Except it wasn't, as Hill recaps on a lot of the vital information later. The only hitch is making sure you get the fairly large cast of alternative health eccentrics straight in your mind.

You won't be too surprised to hear, though, that the book is worth sticking with for some classic Dalziel monologues in that first section which are howl-aloud funny. Then things look up, so to speak, when a gruesome murder occurs and DCI Peter Pascoe and the cavalry arrive.

And this is where the book really starts to pulse as Hill deals with the tension between the bed-ridden (well, nearly) boss and his protégé who is leading the enquiry. And it's interesting to note that it's Dalziel, never backward about coming forward, who often exercises restraint while Pascoe continues his progression into a far more abrasive character (much like the portrayal in the TV version).

And while that character portrayal never quite convinced me in the dramatisations, as the TV Pascoe and the book Pascoe appeared to be rather distant cousins, it makes far more sense in A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, given what the DCI has seen and gone through over the past few books.

There's a large tip of Hill's very fetching hat to Jane Austen's unfinished novel SANDITON where families are trying to create a commercial town. So we have an eclectic cast of blow-ins and locals who are pulling in different directions when it comes to the town's future. And all this is mixed with Hill's usual gleeful love of language and water-tight plotting.

A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES is a highly entertaining addition to a series that has never flagged and remains as shiny and new-minted as the day it started. And it simply confirms that Hill is the king of UK crime writers.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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