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

TBR Thursday 253…

Episode 253

Despite the arrival of actual book-post from publishers this week (Yay!!) the astonishing fall in the TBR continues – down 2 to 198! However, if it cheers up any of you who are severely distressed at the idea of a falling TBR, I should perhaps admit to having acquired eight audiobooks in Audible’s sale…

Here are a few more that should blow my mind soon…

Fiction

Sula by Toni Morrison

The final book of my 20 Books of Summer list, but will I get to it in time? It’ll be a nail-biting race to the finish line… 

The Blurb says: As girls, Nel and Sula shared each other’s discoveries and dreams in the poor black mid-West of their childhood. Then Sula ran away to live her dreams and Nel got married. Ten years later Sula returns and no one, least of all Nel, trusts her. Sula is the story of the fear that makes people accept self-pity; the fear that will not countenance escape and that justifies itself through myth and legend. Sula herself is cast as a witch and demon by the people who resent her strength. They attack her with the most pervasive weapon of all, the weapon of language and story. But Sula is a woman of power, a wayward force who challenges the smallness of a world that tries to hold her down.

* * * * *

Fiction

Clouds by Chandrahas Choudhury

A few years ago, I read and adored Choudhury’s earlier book, Arzee the Dwarf, and have waited a long, long time for a new one. This one has been out for a while in India, but hasn’t had a proper publication in the UK, which makes me feel it may have been considered too intrinsically Indian to work well for an international market. But we’ll see – I think the blurb sounds great!

The Blurb says: Recently divorced psychotherapist Farhad Billimoria realizes he will never find love again in Bombay and prepares for a move to San Francisco. On a farewell tour throughout the city, his mind crackles with bittersweet memories and giddy dreams. But is love about to bloom for Farhad just as he has given up on the city? And if it does, will he bring to it the man that he is, or the one he wants to become?

Elsewhere in Bombay, the tribal youth Rabi remains stuck as the caretaker to his parents, two ailing and cranky old Brahmins. Rabi comes from the remote Cloud people of eastern India, a sky-watching tribe that observes the Cloudmaker–the mercurial God who drifts and muses in the skies–and that is dragged into the modern world when a mining company invades their sacred mountain. Rabi’s mentor Bhagaban, a forward-thinking filmmaker, leads their resistance. But will Rabi follow Bhagaban or his parents, who reassert a golden Indian past?

From one of India’s most celebrated young writers, Clouds illuminates the inner lives of characters forging their own paths in the great metropolis and shows a vast, prismatic portrait of modern India in all its tumult and glory.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

The Man Who Didn’t Fly by Margot Bennett

Courtesy of the British Library. Another new-to-me author and a Scottish one at that! It sounds like fun, although early reviews are distinctly mixed. (If I find I’m not in the mood for any one of the last few books on my 20 Books list, I might swap this one in…)

The Blurb says: Four men had arranged to fly to Dublin. When their aeroplane descended as a fireball into the Irish Sea, only three of them were on board. With the identities of the passengers lost beneath the waves, a tense and perplexing investigation begins to determine the living from the dead, with scarce evidence to follow beyond a few snippets of overheard conversation and one family’s patchy account of the three days prior to the flight.

Who was the man who didn’t fly? What did he have to gain? And would he commit such an explosive murder to get it? First published in 1955, Bennett’s ingenious mystery remains an innovative and thoroughly entertaining inversion of the classic whodunit.

* * * * *

Reginald Hill on Audio

Exit Lines by Reginald Hill read by Colin Buchanan

Continuing my slow re-read of my favourite crime series of all time, I thought it would be fun to try the audio version of this one. I’m not a huge fan of Colin Buchanan’s portrayal of Pascoe in the TV series, so may or may not get on with him as a narrator. But I have the paper copy to fall back on if necessary… 

The Blurb says: Three old men die on a stormy November night: one by deliberate violence, one in a road accident and one by an unknown cause,

Inspector Pascoe is called in to investigate the first death, but when the dying words of the accident victim suggest that a drunken Superintendent Dalziel had been behind the wheel, the integrity of the entire Mid-Yorkshire CID is called into question.

Helped by the bright but wayward Detective-Constable Seymour, hindered by ‘Maggie’s Moron’, the half-witted Constable Hector, Peter Pascoe enters the twilight and vulnerable world of the senior citizen – to discover that the beckoning darkness at the end of the tunnel holds few comforts.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads, Amazon UK or Audible UK.

* * * * *

Quick Reminder: For those who are planning to read A Month in the Country, the date for reviews and comments is Monday, 31st August. I’ll be starting it soon – hope we all enjoy it!

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?