Death’s Jest-Book (Reginald Hill)

A sequel to Dialogues of the Dead, and, like many sequels, disappointing.  Hill has fallen into the James trap of believing that no story is worthwhile unless couched in ambiguous and introspective prose; hence, the greatest mystery for the first three-quarters of the book is what the mystery actually is, for these pages merely set up plot strands without any actual plot.  Inevitably, the central plot (if there is one) is mediocre: a fairly standard jewellery heist, in which as chance (or authorial direction) would have it, Pascoe’s daughter is kidnapped.  Pascoe himself has become obnoxious, and his obsession with Franny Roote, Hill’s King Charles’s head for the last three books, irritates.  The most irritating element, however, is Hill’s resolution to the problem set up by the identity of the Wordman at the end of Dialogues: he avoids any sort of conflict, and kills off the Wordman (suicide / brain tumour).


2002 HarperCollins

The jest is, the dead won’t lie still in the grave.

Three times D.C.I. Pascoe has wrongly accused dead-pan joker Franny Roote.  This time he’s determined to leave no gravestone unturned as he tries to prove that the ex-con and aspiring academic is mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Meanwhile, Edgar Wield rides to the rescue of a child in danger, only to find he’s got a rent-boy under his wing.  In return, the boy tips him off about the heist of a priceless treasure, and soon Wieldy is torn between protecting the lad and doing his duty.

His superiors might have worries, but D.C. Bowler is looking forward to a blissful New Year with the girl of his dreams.  Unfortunately, her dreams are filled with a horror too terrible to tell…

And over all this activity broods the huge form of Mid-Yorkshire C.I.D.’s First Mover, D.S. Andy Dalziel.  As trouble builds, the Fat Man discovers (as many deities before him) that omniscience can be more trouble than it’s worth, and that sometimes all omnipotence means is that you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black.