Hill, Reginald. Ruling Passion.

NY: Harper, 1973.

It’s sort of odd, reading a detective story written nearly half a century ago in which certain characters like to think of themselves as “modern.” But Hill has been doing this series a long time — this is the third out of some two dozen books — and Detective Superintendent “Fat Andy” Dalziel of Yorkshire, a copper of the old school, has gradually gotten used to new things.

(There’s an internal problem of chronology, though, in that he was already at that rank fifty years ago, which means he has to be well into his nineties now, in the later books, and still in charge of CID.)

The story this time focuses more on Dalziel’s number-two man, DS Peter Pascoe, though (who finally makes it to Inspector halfway through), and his recently rediscovered ex-girlfriend, Eleanor, from the previous book. They’re feeling their way into a rekindled relationship and have gone down to Oxford to spend the weekend with four friends from their university days. But when they arrive, it’s to discover three of their friends dead by shotgun blasts in the host’s house and the host himself missing. Pascoe, of course, immediately calls the local cops and finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being merely a witness, not an investigator. Especially since Superintendent Backhouse is a very different sort of personality than Pascoe’s boss. And Peter himself is not happy about the assumption that his vanished friend must be the killer, which makes him not very cooperative.

Meanwhile, back in the north, Dalziel and his crew are trying to deal with a series of very efficient burglaries, always in upscale homes, always when the families are away on holiday, which means the break-ins aren’t even discovered quickly. And one innocent bystander who was in the wrong place has already been severely beaten by the burglar, so Dalziel is worried about what might happen if someone should catch the guy in the act.

The narrative switches from one case to the other, with Pascoe taking part in both, and eventually — as you knew they would — the two begin to converge. That depends on the sort of coincidence that would seem odd in real life, but Hill manages it in a believable way. The supporting cast, from Eleanor, now a university lecturer who doesn’t like Pascoe’s hulking boss very much, to Backhouse and his own team, are very nicely developed. Since this is only the third book, it’s obvious this series became a good deal stronger very quickly. I’ll be lining up the next twenty-odd episodes with pleasurable expectations.

Published in: on 28 February 2016 at 3:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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