Deadheads (Dalziel and Pascoe 7) by Reginald Hill

A thorny problem…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Patrick Aldermann seems to lead a charmed life. Every time anyone gets in his way fate intervenes and they die. When Patrick’s boss, Dandy Dick Elgood, suggests that perhaps Patrick gives fate a hand, Dalziel hands the case over to Peter Pascoe. Peter will have to decide if there’s any truth to Elgood’s fears by looking back at some of the convenient deaths to see if there were any suspicious circumstances missed at the time. But this is complicated by the fact that Peter’s wife, Ellie, has struck up a promising new friendship with Daphne, Patrick’s wife. Dalziel has his own personal interest – once upon a time he tried to seduce Patrick’s mother…

By this stage in the series, Hill has hit his stride and the recurring characters have developed the depth and complexity that make them so enjoyable. Sometimes Hill concentrates more on one of his leads than the others, giving the bulk of the book over to either Dalziel or Pascoe, or later in the series, to Wield or even Ellie. In this one, Pascoe is the leading character, but it’s very much an ensemble piece, with each having their own story within the story, so to speak. We get to know Ellie better as we see her try to juggle between her friendship with Daphne and her loyalty to Peter. Always what we would now call a social justice warrior, her left-wing, anti-Establishment, feminist views sit uneasily beside her role as policeman’s wife, but she’s an independent-minded woman with enough of a sense of humour to cheerfully navigate the dilemmas in which she often finds herself.

There’s a new cadet attached to CID on a short training placement – young Shaheed Singh, known as Shady by his colleagues. I’ve said before that Hill in his day was at the forefront of addressing the changing face of British society in crime fiction. With Singh he gives a very credible picture of a young lad, Yorkshire born and bred, but treated always as different because of his skin colour and Asian heritage. Hill never takes any of the subjects he tackles to the extremes, be it gender, sexual orientation or race, and that’s why I love him – one of the reasons, anyway. Singh gets fed up with the racially-tinged jokes directed at him by his colleagues, but he recognises that they’re basically the result of casual thoughtlessness rather than any real attempt to hurt.

Patrick Aldermann is an intriguing potential villain. Having inherited Rosemont from his rich great-aunt – victim of one of the fortuitous deaths that ease his path through life – Patrick is devoted to his huge garden. He seems to love his wife and children too, though perhaps with less passion than the roses on which he spends all his spare time and money. Could this apparently good-natured if rather emotionally undemonstrative man really be responsible for the murders of several people? Or is it all simply coincidence? As Peter investigates, he stirs up some murky secrets but they merely add to the confusion around Patrick’s guilt or innocence.

Reginald Hill

Meantime, CID are also investigating a spate of burglaries in the area, while Dalziel is off to London for a conference on community policing in mixed societies, giving us the opportunity to hear some of his un-correct but very funny views on political correctness! So Peter and Wieldy have their hands full, even without this case that might not be a case at all.

Another excellent instalment in this series, with one of Hill’s more playful plots. I’m always a bit reluctant to recommend reading this series in strict order, since I do think the first two or three have dated rather badly and might be a bit off-putting to newcomers. But these middle books would all make good entry points – although the character development is important, each of the books at this stage of the series works fine as a stand-alone (which is not true of some of the later books). Highly recommended, book and series both.

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30 thoughts on “Deadheads (Dalziel and Pascoe 7) by Reginald Hill

  1. You do make a good case for starting this series. I am a bit worried, though. It is aways a great treat to discover a new (to me) crime series. On the other hand, when that has happened in the past, I have been known to go crazy and binge listen my way through the audiobooks, which is both expensive and time consuming. So let’s see if I dare make the jump. Of course, it might be the case, that I don’t enjoy them at all.

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    • You will enjoy them! 😀 I must admit I’m not a fan of the actor who narrates most of the audiobooks – Colin Buchanan. He played Pascoe in the TV adaption so I can see why he was chosen, but I find his voice rather flat and dull. So I tend to stick to the written word for this series. However, loads of other people seem to think he’s great at it, so don’t let me put you off!

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  2. I couldn’t agree more, FictionFan, that Hill’s characters get better and more in-depth as the series goes on. I do like the way he addresses issues like racism and homophobia without taking away from the plot, and without preaching. He created so many strong characters, too, that it’s not hard to see how he could vary the character who ‘stars’ now and then. And that just makes the series more interesting, if you ask me.

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    • Yes, he doesn’t get bogged down in “issues” the way a lot of current crime fiction can but by just having these things as a natural part of the characterisation his understated approach is actually more effective, I think. I imagine him having Dalziel be very funny about the whole “woke” culture! 😉

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    • It really does, doesn’t it? And also how our culture has changed over the years he was writing. I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed some of his books – I’d hate for him to drift into “forgotten” status. 😀

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  3. I definitely agree that the middle books in this series are far and away the best. This one also transferred extremely well to the television screen. It is the one episode which continues to stand out in my mind.

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    • I loved the later books too, though they drifted pretty far away from being crime fiction by the end – I tended to think of them more as lit-fic. And they were definitely more aimed at existing fans – I don’t think many of them would have worked as standalones. I was always a bit ambivalent about the TV series. Warren Clarke was a great Dalziel, but Colin Buchanan didn’t match my mental image of Pascoe at all.

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  4. One of the many crime series I need to re-visit. I’m especially drawn to the fact that Hill’s political agenda or social criticism never takes away from the plot, so is not in danger of becoming didactic. It sounds as though this book is one of the best, so I may use it as a means of getting back into reading them.

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    • Yes, I hate being preached at or having a “message” forced down my throat, so Hill’s rather more understated approach of just building these things naturally into the characterisation worked much better for me. I love these middle books – less dated than the early ones, while the late ones, although brilliant, always seem to me more aimed at existing fans. Enjoy!

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  5. I don’t think I’ve read any of Hill’s books, but this one looks interesting. Thanks for the tip about passing on the first few and diving right in to the middle works, though. That give me hope (as an author) that perhaps the more I write, the better I’ll get, ha!

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  6. This does sound like a good series and I’m pretty sure I have the first on my wishlist. I have real “issues” with reading books out of order (I can only think of two series I ever did that with!), but based on what you said, I’ll either skim the first couple or just dive on in at book three. (should I take the plunge at all)

    I’m glad this was one you enjoyed!

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    • You might be fine with the early books – as stories they’re good, it’s just that the attitudes are dated, especially the sexism. I’m just always aware that some readers find it harder to make allowances for outdated attitudes, and also that people might think the whole series will be like that, whereas actually Hill soon became one of the first British crime writers to begin to challenge those attitudes…

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    • The first ones were written in the ’70s and, as a new author, Hill went along with the style and attitudes of the day in crime writing – i.e., pretty sexist and a bit racist. But he very soon became one of the first British crime writers to challenge those attitudes – by about book 4 – and so I feel the early books don’t really reflect what the series became, though they’re good enough in themselves for the time.

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  7. I keep wanting to read more of these but am put off by not being able to find more of the early books, as I like to read series in their order, but you make a good case to just dive in! I laughed aloud when I read that Dalziel tried to seduce Patrick’s mother 🙂

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    • It is a pity they’re getting quite hard to get hold of outside the UK – I think they’re all still in print here, but I know I struggle to find them on Amazon US sometimes when I’m looking for links. But these middle ones especially do work as standalones so no need to read them strictly in order! Haha, I love Dalziel – I think we’re supposed to like Pascoe best, but I always preferred the old dinosaur… 😉

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