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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill

Felony & Mayhem, 304 pages, $14.95, c1973

“Ruling Passion” is the third book in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series, which, by the time of Hill’s death in 2012, had reached twenty-three novels. The series roamed the hills and dales and towns of Yorkshire, England, and taught its American readers that mystery was deep and rich in Northern England, not just in jaunty London town.

Peter Pascoe at the beginning of the book is a Detective Sergeant but is promoted to Inspector by the end, although the book is full of his fumbling and wrong-concluding. His superior officer is Detective Superintendent “Fat” Andy Dalziel, a straightforward, sometimes vulgar, rough-hewn, gleaming intelligence. And although Dalziel plays a part in this book, it belongs to Pascoe.

Pascoe and girlfriend Ellie are on their way for a weekend reunion with four old friends in the small, quaint town of Thornton Lacey. When they arrive, silence greets them. And the dead bodies of three of their friends. In the initial ghastliness of the situation, Pascoe finds it difficult to be a policeman. He teeters between being a witness and being a professional.

Fortunately for his sanity, duty drags him back to Dalziel’s side to solve the mystery of a string of burglaries, one of which has turned deadly. Is the last deadly burglary really related to the others or were the burglaries a convenient opportunity for someone to extract revenge?

Reginald Hill does a great job see-sawing (or teeter-tottering, if you’re British) between the cases. Pascoe gains a maturity and humility through being at both ends of police procedure. Hill’s love of language and literature has always made the Dalziel/Pascoe books a standout series. When was the last time you read a crime novel that involved Pope’s “Eloisa to Abelard”?

If you want to start at the beginning, “A Clubbable Woman,” written in 1970, is where you should begin. The publisher Felony & Mayhem has done a great job reissuing a good many of them.

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