Kirkus Reviews QR Code
PICTURES OF PERFECTION by Reginald Hill Kirkus Star


by Reginald Hill

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0440218004
Publisher: Delacorte

Called down to placid Enscombe the day before the quarterly Day of Reckoning to investigate the disappearance of Constable Harold Bendish, Yorkshire coppers Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe (Recalled to Life, 1992, etc.), joined by Pascoe's old friend Sgt. Edgar Wield, find an enchanted village teeming with Brueghelian life — and some secrets worthy of Hieronymous Bosch. Just before vanishing, Bendish had been seen in flagrante on the grounds of Enscombe Old Hall, whose squire, old Selwyn Guillemard, seems oblivious to the clandestine affairs of his pipe-smoking granddaughter Gertrude (Girlie) and his churlish great-nephew and heir-apparent Guy. The new vicar burns for dazzling painter Caddy Scudamore despite his vow of chastity and her indifference; so does art reviewer Justin Halavant, whose home has been broken into, along with waspish Edwin Digweed's bookstore and stuffy Dudley Wynant's post office (twice). After watching the postman run his van off the road to avoid a flock of sheep, Pascoe adjourns to the Morris Men's Rest, whose gossipy landlord fills him in on generations of Enscombe history, before heading over to Intake Cottage to question survivalist Jason Toke about illegally killing a kingfisher. It all seems innocuous enough — or it would, if the book hadn't opened with a bombshell in the form of a flash-forward to the Day of Reckoning that jerks all these petty intrigues into terrifying focus. Hill's dazzling frame-tale, in fact, gives his impossibly complex network of subplots a backbone that makes his story both powerfully affecting and massively entertaining. Altogether the finest English village mystery since The Nine Tailors.