Posted by: billpurdue | May 4, 2008

6 – Detective novels 60 years apart and a Richard and Judy Book

Dalziel rides again

Rumours of the death of Superintendent Andy Dalziel have been greatly exaggerated. Following the 2007 Dalziel and Pascoe novel by Reginald Hill The Death of Dalziel ¹ (which led me to think “he’s finally killed him off – it must be the unhealthy lifestyle”)  Dalziel has been bounced back in the latest book  A Cure for all Diseases². Well not exactly bounced, but he convalesces in a quiet seaside resort after being caught up in a semtex explosion in the last novel. One of the major landowners at the resort  gets bumped off after  a dispute over development plans and DCI Peter Pascoe is called in to investigate, with Dalziel and Charlotte Heywood, another newcomer to the town, providing support.

Sounds like a good old yarn, but you need to get used to the style – well I do at any rate. The first two chapters consist of two long emails with lots of abbreviations and hyphens and few complete sentences and there are more chapter–long emails later on in the book. Some other chapters are in the first person in Dalziel’s northern way of speaking and others are straightforward narrative. Still it’s good to know that Dalziel lives to investigate another day – and he might get back on the telly. Wikipedia has a list of all the Dalziel and Pascoe novels

Reginald Hill’s other crime hero is Joe Sixsmith and he’s back in a new novel to be published in June, The Roar of the Butterflies³



Richard and Judy

Public libraries and book shops have latched on to the Richard and Judy Book Awards and with good reason.  There’s nothing like a bit of good publicity  to boost the sales figures (or the borrowing figures) of a new title, or in this case perhaps, increase the sales of a certain brand of chocolate. The Richard and Judy Book Awards seem to have hit the right level to appeal to a wide range of readers, as opposed to the Man-Booker shortlist which seems to be on a more intellectual level.  I picked up one of the R & J shortlisted books  the other week: The Welsh Girl 4 by Peter Ho Davies.  It is set mainly in rural North West Wales during the later years of the Second World War. There are three main characters; a Welsh farm girl who becomes pregnant by an  English soldier at the local garrison, who promptly leaves the area with his regiment, before the garrison becomes a prisoner of war camp. The second character is a German soldier who surrenders with his comrades and is  brought to the camp and is the only prisoner to escape. The third is a Jewish refugee working for British Intelligence, who becomes interested in the case of the escapee. As this book reached the R & J shortlist for 2008 and was in the last Man-Booker longlist, I feel that it might have caught my imagination more than it did. It ‘s a novel about how the war affected different people in different ways and in this it succeeds, but I feel all the time the reader is being prepared for a short, quite gripping, sequence of events at the end of the book. All the events and descriptive passages are to me so much scene setting. I also found the rather conversational style and the swapping from past tense to present tense between chapters a little off-putting.

You can see a brief video of the author describing the plot of the book on the website.


A “Golden Oldie”

Now for the other detective novel – back in the 1950s, my parents were members of the Companion Book Club which offered a different novel or non-fiction title every month to its members at the bargain price of 4/6 (22½ pence in new money). The bookshop price would have been around 15/- (75 pence) I still have quite a few of the books which my parents bought, though I have got rid of quite a few. I’m glad I saved one in particular, since it turned out to be a cracking good suspense novel. It’s Operation Pax by Michael Innes. Set in and around Oxford, and particularly the Bodleian Library, just after the second world war, it’s about a sinister plot to subdue the whole human race by removing all aggressive traits. A  petty criminal, fleeing an imagined arrest following an attempt to cash a dishonestly obtained check, is abducted by the sinister organisation, but manages to escape after killing one of the scientists. He is pursued to Oxford and in one way or another he manages to attract the attention of the police, including Sir John Appleby of Scotland Yard and some of the university’s scientific community. It’s a complicated plot with new characters being introduced throughout the book , but my attention was held right from the start and eventually it became a real page turner. Bear in mind though – it is 60 years old and some of the words and turns of phrase that are used seem antiquated today. That said, I am surprised that the book is no longer in print. The most recent edition was 2001 as far as I can tell and second hand copies can be found if you look on the net.

The title isn’t available in either Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire Libraries, but both have a large number of other titles by him (click on the county name for their respective online catalogues). Michael Innes was the pseudonym of J I M Stewart and there’s a website dedicated to him, which includes a list of all his books.


I’m reading…

…two books about Warsop Vale and “Three men in a Boat”.


Look out for…

….three paperbacks due out in the next month or two: Ben Elton’s “Blind faith” (May) and “Dead Heat” by Dick Francis and “Sepulchre” by Kate Mosse, both expected in June.

1  The Death of Dalziel by Reginald Hill    HarperCollins £17.99  9780007194841

2 A Cure for All Diseases  by Reginald Hill   HarperCollins  £17.99 9780007252671

3 The Roar of the Butterflies by Reginald Hill  HarperCollins  £10.00 (available in June ) 9780007252732

4  The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies   Sceptre £7.99  978-0340938270





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