- By Reginald Hill
- First published: UK: Collins, 1980; US: Pantheon, 1981
Serial killings are seldom either convincing or interesting, as this early Hill demonstrates, for the solution is weak. Not only is the motive daft and unconvincing, but the reader is forced to rack his brains in an attempt to remember who the murderer is. This sense of anti-climax is not helped by the fact that characters and plot strands blur throughout the novel, the telling of which drags, so that it is difficult—and, in the end, as futile as the fat Superintendent Dalziel—to tell (or care) who was where when, and why.
The Times (H.R.F. Keating, 18 December 1980): Meditation on Yorkshire Ripper theme (written, of course, in the last lull). Hill has the gift of constant surprise from plot to phrase.
Times Literary Supplement (T.J. Binyon, 26th December 1980): Detective-Superintendent Dalziel and Inspector Pascoe on the track of the Yorkshire Choker, who strangles his female victims, arranges their bodies neatly with a posy of flowers on their breast, and rings up the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet to announce the deed. Reginald Hill’s stories must certainly be among the best now being written, and with each successive book he seems to be widening his range. He reverses the normal priorities of detective fiction: character is always more important than plot—although plot, and well-constructed, too, there always most undoubtedly is. In earlier books the appallingly gross Dalziel was possibly a mite overdone: here he recedes slightly, his place in the foreground being taken by a new figure, the ugly and enigmatic Sergeant Wield, and by Pascoe, whose wife Ellie (first met in An Advancement of Learning) is having her first baby, and becoming secretary of the local Women’s Rights Action Group.