- By Reginald Hill
- First published: UK: Collins, 1990; US: Delacorte, 1990
Although it won the Gold Dagger Award for the Best Crime Novel of the Year (1990), this is not very good. As a detective story, it disappoints, despite the profusion of plot strands, including Dalziel as witness to a “suicide,” Dalziel as recipient of mysterious suicide letters, and Dalziel as God in the Mystery Plays (“role-playing has an honourable history in psychological rehabilitation and what better way of coming to terms with guilt than exploring the greatest guilt of all?”)—Lucifer played by the chief suspect; the drug trade; football hooliganism; financial skulduggery; and missing people. Although it is slow-moving for the first two hundred pages, it picks up; and there is an ingenious hiding-place for a corpse. The murderer’s identity is obvious from the beginning, so there is little surprise at the end. This is balanced by the humour arising from the amusingly outrageous behaviour of the fat, coarse and very sharp Dalziel, and by the skilful way in which the Yorkshire Mystery Plays are linked with the murder case. Unfortunately the climax to which the book has been building falls remarkably flat, for we have no knowledge of the suicide’s character or past history.
Times Literary Supplement (Patricia Craig, 17th August 1990): A production of the York Mysteries presides over the latest Dalziel and Pascoe novel from Reginald Hill, with Detective-Superintendent Andy Dalziel roped in to play the part of God (being fat and formidable). Dalziel, however, has other matters on his mind, the chief one being how to pin on its perpetrator a murder he actually witnessed, but over which some confusion has arisen. Dalziel isn’t to be deflected from his conclusion, even when it looks as though unreason has taken over—and we, of course, understand that the bee in his bonnet is likely to have a lethal sting. In the meantime, it’s left to Inspector Pascoe to take heed of some very articulate anonymous letters from a woman threatening suicide—a part for which the plot offers several candidates. A complex, challenging and diverting novel, from one of the most cogent of detective writers.