Hill, Reginald. An Advancement of Learning.

Woodstock VT: Countryman Press, 1985.

First published in 1975, this is the second in the police procedural series featuring “Fat Andy” Dalziel and Peter Pascoe of the CID somewhere in darkest Yorkshire. Pascoe is a recently promoted Detective Sergeant here, though he advances to DCI as the series progresses

— but Dalziel is already a very experienced Detective Superintendent in his fifties, which means he must be pushing 100 by the second decade of the 21st century and is still going strong. There’s no way around that real-world impossibility, though, if you want to keep reading the stories.

The setting is a second-tier college (it used to be a teachers’ training institute before British higher education was “industrialized”) which is expanding its campus and the removal of a large statue to the memory of a previous head of the school reveals a murdered body underneath — which turns out to be the head herself. In come Dalziel and Pascoe to look into the five-year-old murder. There has also been a recent scandal involving an apparent unprofessional relationship between a professor and one of his students. And Pascoe — a “graduate copper” when advanced education was still very unusual among the police — discovers an old flame on the faculty from his own university days. And then there’s the strangely charismatic senior student who enjoys manipulating those around him for his own mostly carnal ends. The original murder won’t be the only one, either.

There’s a lot of what feels like social archaeology in this book, the mid-’70s was such a different world. (And I remember it well.) The characters are generally well-drawn — though Dalziel is extremely boorish in a way that would not be permitted these days — and the quite complex plot is pretty good. Just approach it as a period piece and settle in. There are plenty more cases to come.

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Published in: on 22 October 2015 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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