Hill, Reginald. Good Morning, Midnight.

NY: HarperCollins, 2004.

I began reading my way straight through this lengthy series several years ago (this is the 21st volume) and I’ve come to greatly enjoy the gradually developing collegial relationship between Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel, the boss of Mid-Yorkshire CID, and his star subordinate, DCI Peter Pascoe, who is about as different a personality as it’s possible to be — and also the recurring supporting cast, including Sergeant Edgar Wield, the ugliest cop in Britain, who is also gay and has a memory like a computer. Other members of the team have featured in the stories over time, most recently Shirley “Ivor” Novello and “Hat” Bowler, both smart and ambitious young DCs.

Even Peter’s semi-radical wife, Ellie, now a published writer, has played a key part in several of the books, as has his young daughter, Rosie. It’s an interesting group and the author has done well by them.

This time, the theme is suicide and family feuds, but Hill, naturally, has an original take on both. Ten years ago, Pal Mciver, Sr., having been forced by the economic tightening of the ’90s to sell out his carefully built-up manufacturing company to an American outfit, found he couldn’t handle being sidelined and one evening put a shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger with his big toe. At least, that was the coroner’s verdict at the time. Pal’s second wife, an American, ended up remarried to her boss (also an American) at the company. The two oldest of Pal’s three kids by his first wife hated their stepmother and changed the locks on the house as soon as the old man was buried, but the youngest daughter loved her and wanted nothing more to do with her siblings. Now it’s a decade later and Pal, Jr., has just committed suicide in exactly the same fashion. In fact, he went to considerable lengths to copycat it as closely as possible, even to leaving open a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry on the desk.

Pascoe doesn’t feel right about all this. Was the second death really self-inflicted? Or was it a carefully constructed murder? The fact that Dalziel warns him away from the case in strong terms makes him even more suspicious. Fat Andy would never cover up a killing — but he’s certainly hiding something. And then the “funny buggers” of the CIA and MI-6 get involved.

Hill has been playing games with his narrative structure in the last few books, and this time much of the plot development hinges on a series of lengthy taped conversations/confessions from the various principles — including the Superintendent himself. And numerous puzzling aspects of the present-day death become clear in the light of the multiple back-stories the tapes provide. It’s an interesting method, proving how important motive can be — though it takes Pascoe until three-quarters of the way through the story to discover whether a crime has actually been committed or not. Still an excellent series.

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