Hill, Reginald. Death Comes for the Fat Man.

NY: HarperCollins, 2007.

This police procedural series set in darkest Yorkshire has been around since 1970, and Andrew (“Fat Andy”) Dalziel has been a Detective Superintendent in homicide that whole time, which means the author has had to engage in time-stretching (or something) to keep his protagonist out of the old folks’ home.

Anyway, I read a few of the early ones a couple decades ago — there are two dozen entries in the series now — and then somehow got distracted. This one was mentioned by a friend who thought it was possibly the best yet, so I delved back in to the world of the vastly overweight and unconquerable detective and his sidekick, DI Peter Pascoe, as they come to terms with the modern world of terrorism — only, it isn’t what you (or they) think.

A constable on foot patrol (Hector, a great character in himself) has called in a “man with a gun” report and when Dalziel shows up to surround the place — against orders from the counter-terrorism unit, which has its own interest in that particular address — a huge explosion destroys the terrace and puts him in the critical ward in a coma. Pascoe, who was sheltered from most of the blast by his boss’s sheer bulk, is only banged up and becomes fixated on tracking down those responsible. Because if Dalziel dies, as seems likely through much of the book, it would shift the planets in their courses as far as he’s concerned.

His investigation brings him to the attention of the counter-terrorism spooks, who take him partway under their wing — but primarily, he’s sure, so they can keep an eye on him. And so he’s dealing with one set of certain enemies and another set of potential ones with a different agenda that doesn’t have much to do with solving murders for the public good.

Pascoe has a wife, a struggling new author, who has also been a feature of the series for some time, and Dalziel has a lady friend whose advent is apparently more recent, and they both have a active part in the story, too. As does Sgt. Edgar Wield, who is gay, recently married, and a genius at organization of evidence. (The times have changed considerably since this series began.) And the Bad Guys are there all along, of course, hiding behind names taken from the early history of the Knights Templar, and dedicated to fighting Islam with what they perceive as its own weapons.

Many of the reviewers apparently complained because there’s too much Pascoe and not enough Dalziel, but not having read all the others, that doesn’t bother me. It’s a pretty good story in itself and I can see I’m going to have to go back and locate and read the whole twenty-odd books from the beginning. It’s always nice to have a new detective series lined up, though.


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