Although Yorkshire’s Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Inspector Peter Pascoe are strong supporting characters in Hill’s 18th entry in this enduring series, the real stars are an evocative array of women.
Deeply shaken by her 9-year-old daughter’s close encounter with death in ‘On Beulah Height’ Peter’s wife Ellie has taken to writing a novel for comfort. It’s about the Greeks and the Trojans, but the odd thing is that her Odysseus looks and sounds a lot like Andy Dalziel. (After Aenas accuses him of being one of his sworn enemies, Odysseus replies, “Nay, lord … I’ve sworn to nowt about you lot. I’ve never heard owt about you but good, nor do I wish you any harm, and I’ll swear to that here and now, if you like.”).
Still, her happy days spent writing are soon cut short when she narrowly avoids being kidnapped by a slick couple who show up in a white Mercedes. Then her neighbor, Daphne Aldermann, has her stiff upper lip split when she goes after an intruder outside the Pascoe house and is badly beaten.
Other compelling female characters include the tough and glamorous Constable Shirley Novello (who volunteers to guard Ellie despite an instinctive dislike between them), an elderly activist called Feenie Macallum, and a con woman, Kelly Cornelius (who is linked to some IRA gun runners and Colombian drug dealers).
Between them, these women work out a beautiful, dangerous revenge on the villains who threaten them.
Once again, Reginald Hill has found a new way to get our attention and prove that – for him – the restraints of the mystery are non existent.