The Death of Dalziel is the latest in Reginald Hill’s long-running series of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels. They’ve been around for a while, since 1970 in fact, when bright, university-educated Detective-Sergeant Peter Pascoe first teamed up with Superintendent Andy Dalziel in A Clubbable Woman. Time seems to have worked in a relative, different sense over the ensuing period, because Andy is still a Superintendent, but Peter is now a Detective Chief Inspector (although their roles are pretty much the same as ever). For the most part these books have set a standard for crime writing, but in more recent years some of them have not quite come off – the willing suspension of disbelief has not come easily for some of the plots. The Death of Dalziel teeters on the edge of this category.
The story is about terrorism and reactions to it. At the beginning of the book, Dalziel and Pascoe are blown up, and the Fat Man spends the rest of the book on the cusp of life and death. Pascoe has to carry on without his mentor, finding himself taking on many of his characteristics and ploys as he does so. The explosion, and subsequent deaths and other violence, seem to be down to a mysterious group calling itself the Knights Templar, who want to wreak revenge for the British deaths in the Iraq war. But are the security forces involved, and is this why they seem to want to divert Peter’s attentions? As usual, Ellie Pascoe, Peter’s wife, is heavily involved, as is Sergeant Wield and the more recent addition to the cast, PC Hector. All is resolved, not entirely convincingly, but its leavened with mid-Yorkshire humour and commonsense.
The book provides plenty of opportunities for set-piece commentaries on the security forces, TV debate shows, and literary agents, as well as some social commentary on attitudes to people of non-British origin in the climate of today. It is very well done, and the timing and flow of the action is impeccable. It’s just that some of the coincidences are too much so, and some of the characters are a bit over the top. But perhaps that’s not unexpected for the 22nd book in a series.