DEATH’S JEST-BOOK by Reginald Hill


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A 20th helping of Dalziel and Pascoe, together with at least as many subplots.

There’s the Franny Roote subplot about an ex-con turned epistolary academic: letters, letters, relentlessly long letters addressed to DCI Peter Pascoe, making Peter scratch his pate in bemusement. Is Franny still the same con man he was when Peter put him away? Or is he redeemed and reformed, the solid citizen everybody but Peter seems to think he’s become? In either case, how explain his choice of pen-pal? There’s the Lee Lubanski subplot, involving Mid-Yorkshire CID’s formidable (and gay) DS Wield, who pities and tries to protect a boy prostitute with doom written all over him. There’s the bittersweet-love-story subplot, exploring with affecting delicacy the relationship of a handsome detective and a fetching librarian begun in Dialogues of the Dead (2000). There’s the vengeance-is-mine subplot featuring the best friend of a serial killer, convinced that the cops nailed the wrong man, hounded him to death, covered up their mistakes, and ought to pay. And there’s an array of mini-subplots involving crooked lawyers, fatuous academics, lovely ladies, domestic souls, and diverse others who tremble when CS Dalziel (a.k.a. Fat Andy) thrusts his awesome bulk and nimble brain toward them to emerge, as always, vulgar and victorious.

Certainly not without its rewards—bumptious Andy and elegant Peter are in top form—but if only there’d been a bit of pruning.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0060528060
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2003


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