A Pinch of Snuff (Reginald Hill)

  • By Reginald Hill
  • First published: UK: Collins, 1978; US: Harper, 1978

An unrepresentative novel from this talented author, with its Swiftian scrutiny of the baser side of man’s nature: to wit, his fondness for pornography (and, in certain cases, with ‘snuff’ films).  Despite the copious amounts of sex and mutual masturbation, sadism and sad old men, the ingredients are tastefully treated—perhaps too much so, as if the author determined to write about pornography, yet felt himself too disgusted to do any more than hold it at arm’s length, as far away from himself (and from the reader) as he could manage.  This inconsistency of tone unfortunately mirrors the construction of the plot.  What was an intriguingly complicated mixture of allegations of paedophilia, murder, snuff films and revelations of clandestine lovemaking, across class and generations, grows alarmingly out of hand towards the end, resulting in an orgy of convoluted contortions rivalled only by the more notorious pages of the Karma Sutra, as it becomes more and more difficult to care not only who was doing what with whom and how, but (more damaging in a detective story) who was doing what to whom and why.


The Times (H.R.F. Keating, 16th March 1978): With this head-on encounter with sex-and-violence (snuff equals the bluest films) Inspector Pascoe joins the select few, simultaneously real person and memorable logo.