Exit Lines (Dalziel and Pascoe 8) by Reginald Hill

Death in triplicate…

😀 😀 😀 😀

On a stormy November night, three elderly men die: one, murdered in his home; one, while walking home, perhaps by accident, perhaps not; and the third, hit by a car as he rode home from the pub on his bicycle. While looking into the first, definite murder Pascoe finds himself gradually suspecting that the second case may also have been the result of a violent attack. But the third case is the most difficult, since there is a suspicion that Pascoe’s boss, Dalziel, may have been drunkenly driving the car that hit the man on the bike…

Hill must have been writing this around the time of the big debate in the UK over “care in the community” – whether the elderly, disabled and otherwise vulnerable should be de-institutionalised from hospitals and care homes, and be helped to live independently in their own homes. In truth, many were left to fend for themselves with only the support of family, if they had any. Hill uses his three old men to show various aspects of this debate, but with a light touch – he never gets too heavily into polemics, although his left-wing bias becomes more obvious throughout the Thatcher era. He shows us the loneliness of some elderly people, and also the stress placed on families trying to juggle jobs and children with caring for elderly relatives. But while the three men at the centre of the story are victims to one degree or another, Hill doesn’t paint the picture as all bleak – he shows us the ordinary kindnesses of people looking out for each other, whether family or strangers, and he shows the official care system as quite caring on the whole, unusually, since it often gets a very bad rap in fiction, probably far worse than it deserves.

Reginald Hill

All this is interesting, but I must admit this isn’t one of my favourites in the series. The three storylines are too much, leading to loads of characters in each case, and I often found myself struggling to remember which plotline each person belonged to. The storyline around Andy’s possible drunk driving is a bit messy too, I feel, though it’s interesting to see the other police officers struggling to avoid the appearance of a police cover-up, while staying loyal to one of their own. On top of all this, Pascoe’s wife Elly is worried about her father, who seems to be showing the first signs of dementia. I felt Hill was trying to cover too many aspects of what it is to be elderly and as a result rather lost focus on the plots.

However, even a weaker Hill is better than most other crime fiction, and there’s plenty to enjoy here. Pascoe is at centre stage, leading the investigations while Andy is on enforced leave. PC Hector provides the humour – good-hearted, but so slow on the uptake as to be almost half-witted. (Andy calls him one of “Maggie’s Morons” – I can’t remember for sure the relevance of this, but I’m guessing Thatcher increased police recruitment dramatically, and this maybe led to a perceived reduction in standards? It’s amazing how quickly cultural references date and are forgotten.) PC Seymour makes his first appearance too – unlike Hector he has all the signs of being a very good officer and of making his way up through the ranks in time, although in this one he’s distracted by his attraction to one of the witnesses, a young Irish waitress with a love of ballroom dancing. And as a nicely humorous touch, each chapter is headed by the real or apocryphal “famous last words” of a historical person, such as “I am just going outside and may be some time.” (Capt. Lawrence Oates) or “Bugger Bognor!” (George V, on being told by doctors he should go to the seaside town to recuperate).

Colin Buchanan

I listened to it this time, narrated by Colin Buchanan who played Peter Pascoe in the TV series. I have mixed feelings about his narration – I didn’t find it seriously hampered my enjoyment of the book, but I wasn’t keen on his interpretation of Dalziel, though his Wield and Pascoe are very good. He speaks far too fast for my taste and I was constantly finding myself jumping back a bit to pick up something I missed. And while I’m no expert on regional accents, I couldn’t help feeling that a lot of his Yorkshiremen sounded more like Geordies. I liked it enough, though, to go ahead and get the next one on audio – maybe he’ll win me over in time.

So a good read, even if it’s not quite up to the standards of the best in this excellent series. It would work as a standalone, but would probably be better appreciated by a reader who already knew the characters from the earlier books.

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

35 thoughts on “Exit Lines (Dalziel and Pascoe 8) by Reginald Hill

  1. I know what you mean, FictionFan, about this story being a bit ‘busy.’ There is a lot going on, and almost too much to keep track of as you read. Still, it’s very hard to go wrong with a D & P, and I do like the way his characters develop over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s also a drawback of audiobooks for me – in a paper book it’s much easier to flip back to remind yourself of each storyline. But even if this isn’t a particular favourite of mine, it’s still very well worth reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • He read most of them, though I think some of the later ones have a different narrator. I did go on and listen to the next one he did, and didn’t have the same issues with it, so maybe I just needed to get used to him…

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  2. I’m glad you liked this even if it is not one of your absolute favorites. Thematically, this actually appeals to me despite the overcrouded plot, but your observations about Colin Buchanan’s narration is putting me off slightly, especially if some of his accents are poor. I’ll maybe listen to a sample of one of his recordings to see how I get on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did go on and listen to Colin Buchanan narrating the next one and found I didn’t have the same issues with it and enjoyed his narration, so I don’t know if it was just this particular book, or maybe the mood I was in at the time. He had to struggle against my existing prejudices since I never thought he was right for the role of Pascoe in the TV series either.

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  3. I have the first in this series on my wishlist. Your statement about even his weaker stories being better than most crime fiction has me thinking it should perhaps move from my wishlist to my TBR.

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  4. I enjoyed your review. I read this 9 years ago, but still remembered it – well some of it! I liked the use of ‘exit lines’ in the chapter headings. I’m not keen on audio books – male narrators rarely speak like real women and vice versa.

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    • I always love these quirky things Hill does, like having the exit lines, or the Austen references and so on. I’ve noticed a real trend for them to have two narrators for a lot of books now, when the perspective is split between male and female characters. I think it works much better. But if there’s only one narrator, I tend to prefer it when they don’t try too hard to “do” a female voice, or a male one.

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  5. I don’t know, FF. I think we’ve all had enough pandemic-stress for me to try to wade through all these old folks right now. Does that sound awfully cold?? It’s probably a good read (or listen), but maybe I’ll start with something a little less depressing. Three elderly men dead in one night? No thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I know what you mean! It’s why I’m stuck in vintage crime at the moment – they never seem quite as grim. However, there’s always a lot of humour in this series to stop them getting too depressing even when the subject matter is quite dark.

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  6. I’ve never thought of reading Dalziel and Pascoe, but enjoyed them on the t.v., more thought provoking than I would have thought (as is so often the case) Look at that cover for Last of the Mohicans though!!

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    • It’s a series I read as it came out for the most part, grabbing each new one on publication day and devouring it. As a result, while I enjoyed the TV adaptation, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped, mainly because Pascoe and Elly weren’t like my idea of them from the books. Haha, I know – I can’t decide whether I think that cover is wonderful or awful! Both, maybe… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The idea of a mystery/thriller also trying to tackel the subject of how we care for the elderly is an interesting one, but no doubt three different storylines and murders is too much. Sounds like he bit off more than he could chew, but some authors are able to do this better than others-sounds like Hill is quite competent as a writer on the whole 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s a great writer but he does sometimes try to pack a bit too much in. It’s interesting to look back and see what subjects Britain was obsessing about back when he was writing – it’s almost like a potted history of Thatcher’s Britain!

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  8. Every time you review one of these books I want to binge these books from beginning to end. It’s a shame the storylines couldn’t have been broken up over two books as the issues are all important.
    Also, if you couldn’t follow the audio book, I think I’d better stick to the paper versions!

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    • I feel this one would be much easier to follow on paper – I kept wanting to flick back to check how a character fitted in, but it’s not easy to do that with an audiobook! But even the weaker ones in this series are good – I’ll just keep going till I’ve brainwashed you completely… 😉

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  9. I think I’ve seen the tv adaptation of this one, it sounds very familiar. I don’t think I’ll read this – my TBR can’t take me getting into a long series! I did quite fancy Colin Buchanan in his Pascoe days though (you can always rely on me for piercing literary insights, FF 😀 )

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  10. During a slumpish moment I listened to the first three Dalziel and Pascoe books in a row a while back – good stories for distraction and enjoyment. These were read by Brian Glover who had a slower and gruffer delivery than Colin Buchanan (from a brief sample listen). I see that Buchanan picks up the narration from Book 4 and he does seem to have a faster narration pace, which I think wouldn’t suit the style of these stories as much. Perhaps one of the advantages from a listening perspective is that I’m not very familiar with regional British accents, so therefore I’m not irritated if they are “off”. Still it won’t stop me listening the next books in the series. At the moment, I seem to be saving my heavier reading for book form and lighter reading for listening, if it’s available.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know why, but my reading slump seems to have had the odd effect of making me enjoy audiobooks much more than usual – I’ve been powering through them for the last couple of months. I got used to Colin Buchanan’s narration, or he improved – I enjoyed him in the next one much more. Somehow I can’t imagine Brian Glover doing these books either! The series changes so much over the course that the kind of gruff Yorkshire approach of the first few becomes a much more literary style by the end. The ones in the middle – from about book 6 to about book 18 – are the best, I think.

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