Hill, Reginald. Deadheads.

NY: Macmillan, 1983.

I’m well into this long-running detective series now, featuring the working-class Detective Chief Superintendent “Fat Andy” Dalziel (not pronounced the way it looks, but only Scots and Yorkshiremen know that, probably), and DI Peter Pascoe, a university graduate. And I’ve gotten to know the main continuing characters and the way their minds work.

You can depend on Dalziel to be demanding, boorish, and just a little bit on the margin of what’s legally or professionally acceptable, and you can expect the (relatively) liberal Pascoe to suffer from his boss’s actions. A third important player has joined the regular cast now in the person of Ellie, Pascoe’s sometimes strident and always independent wife, a university lecturer (except the school is about to close down) and mother of their infant daughter, Rose. Ellie is loyal and supportive but she’s also very much her own person and she has a justifiably low opinion of Dalziel. (Who, to be fair, asks for it with his paternalistic, anti-feminist attitudes.)

This episode is rather different, in that it’s not clear for most of the book that any crime has even been committed. Dick Elgood, the founder and head of a small kitchen-and-bathroom fixtures empire, thinks there have been some unexplained deaths among his upper management, and he’s suspicious of Patrick Aldermann, an accountant of very average abilities, who has seemed to benefit from all of them. (Patrick spends far more time and effort on his gardens and especially his cultivation of new rose varieties than on his job.) Elgood asks his old buddy, Dalziel, to look into things, and Pascoe gets the job of quietly snooping around and asking questions. Aldermann has a wife in the classic English country mold, who happenstantially becomes acquainted with Ellie, and the two women become semi-friends and part-time antagonists in interesting ways. Then a couple more people die and suddenly Pascoe is taking a much closer look at the circumstances, while Elgood equally suddenly is trying to call them off.

It’s a well-done caper with deeply developed characters, interesting interrelationships, and plenty of the author’s nicely dry humor, and I recommend it unreservedly.


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