Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Reginald Hill’

The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Reginald Hill so far, but The Woodcutter was a stand-out for me from this author. During my recent summer holiday I ignored the spring cleaning I’d saved up to do over my break along with several other good intentions and instead sat in the sun reading this psychological thriller. The spring cleaning will just have to wait until next spring…

The Woodcutter is a stand-alone story from the author who is probably best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe novels. I do intend to work my way through those eventually but want to start at the beginning of the series and haven’t yet come across A Clubbable Woman yet.

This story of The Woodcutter belongs to Sir Wilfred Hadda, who is called Wolf. He was the son of a Cumbrian wood cutter who, despite his wildness, somehow got into the heart of most of the people he met. Despite his low background, Wolf became an extremely wealthy businessman who married his teenage sweetheart, an upper-class woman whose aristocratic family had opposed their marriage.

Wolf’s empire failed when he was charged with both fraud and being involved in a paedophile ring. He was hit by a bus trying to escape from the police and when he woke up, he had lost an eye, several fingers and was lame. Not only that, but is wife had divorced him to marry his former lawyer and their daughter had died from a drug overdose.

The action begins with Wolf in a maximum security prison undergoing psychiatric sessions with Dr Alva Ozigbo. Wolf tells her his story and after eventually having accepted his guilt and showing remorse for his actions, was released from prison and returned to the woods of Cumbria where he set about exacting revenge on everyone who has contributed to his downfall, including his former business partners, police, criminals and his wife.

The descriptions of the rugged, hard Cumbrian landscapes suited the main character in this story perfectly. I liked the minor characters and the humour, too. I had no inkling of how the story would finish until I read the last few pages.

The Woodcutter was also the perfect book for holiday reading as the hardback edition I read would have been far too heavy to read cofortably on the train, then carry in a backpack from the train station to my workplace. (I know, I know, first world problems…)

So, highly recommended by me and I’ll continue to search for early Dalziel and Pascoe novels.

The Roar of the Butterflies by Reginald Hill

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I recently read Reginald Hill’s A Cure for all Diseases which made me feel that my life won’t be complete until I have read everything this author ever wrote. I get most of my books from the local library and so borrowed the only other Reginald Hill book they had, The Roar of the Butterflies. This turned out to be part of a series, which luckily for me also worked as a stand-alone story. To my absolute joy, The Roar of the Butterflies was a tribute to PG Wodehouse’s style and wit (and love of golf, which I don’t share).

To sum up, Joe Sixsmith is an unlikely Private Investigator who often has the solution to his client’s cases fall into his lap. The client in this story is Christian Porphyry, who Joe secretly christens an FYG, short for ‘Fair Young God’. Christian comes to Joe with cash and a case to solve. Christian is facing expulsion from the Royal Hoo Golf Club in Luton because of a cheating mystery. Joe knows nothing about golf but doesn’t let that stop him from taking on the case.

In what may be a coincidence, Luton’s most powerful businessman, who is known as King Rat, offers Joe a surveillance job in Spain.

Between faking it at the golf club, falling unexpectedly into the arms of young girls, avoiding being beaten up by thickheaded boxers, sweet-talking his girlfriend Beryl, trying to stay on the good side King Rat and living up to the Fair Young God’s hopes, Joe is busy from the start to the finish of this light but amusing story.

The title, The Roar of the Butterflies, refers to a golfer who took himself so seriously he couldn’t play when there was noise or distractions and the roar of the butterflies in a nearby paddock was enough to put him off his game. I don’t know much about golf and don’t really care to, but I love reading PG Wodehouse’s stories which are set around golf and his characters who love the game. Reginald Hill’s story is a fitting tribute to PG Wodehouse.

Here’s hoping my library can scratch up more books by Reginald Hill.

 

A Cure For All Diseases by Reginald Hill

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Reginald Hill’s A Cure For All Diseases went to the top of my TBR after I reviewed Sanditon by Jane Austen and Another Lady last year, and was advised by FictionFan that A Cure For All Diseases was a modern retelling of Sanditon as crime fiction, of all things! The only thing was, A Cure For All Diseases is the 21st book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series of novels – so of course I skipped the first 20 books featuring the famous British Police duo and started reading the one I was interested in.

I’m sure fellow Janeite’s will agree with me that A Cure For All Diseases is brilliant. The story is set at Sandytown… Get it? Sanditon! Most of Jane Austen’s characters from Sanditon are in A Cure For All Diseases with their personalities untouched, albeit modernised.

The story begins with the Parker family suffering a car accident on the Heywood’s property and meeting Charlotte (Charley) Heywood and her family. The two families become friendly and Charley is invited to accompany the Parkers to their home in Sandytown, where Tom Parker is creating a health resort with the assistance of Lady Daphne Denham. Tom is keen on alternative therapies and altruistically wants everyone in the world to benefit from an association with Sandytown, but Lady Denham, true to Jane Austen’s character, is in it for the money.

Charley tells her part of the story in a series of emails to her sister in Africa and she doesn’t leave much out. She meets Lady Denham’s nephew, the hunky Sir Edward Denham and his snarky sister Esther, Lady Denham’s mysterious companion, Clara, and most of the other townspeople. Eventually, Tom Parker’s brother Sydney turns up in Sandytown too and he turns out to be another hunk for Charley to gush over in her emails to her sister.

Superintendent Andy Dalziel is also in Sandytown, convalescing at the Avalon Foundation after being seriously injured in a work incident. As part of his therapy, Andy tells his story to a tape recorder he has named Mildred, which we read as he speaks.

Once Pascoe, Wield and other characters from the police enter the story, after Lady Denham is spectacularly murdered and found roasting in a spit-like contraption at her own hog-roast, an omniscient narrator also appears.

I loved the references to Jane Austen’s Sanditon, the setting was gorgeous, the characters were alive and the story brilliant, but for me, Andy’s narrative voice was the highlight of the book. He was rude, politically incorrect, swore constantly, spoke in a Yorkshire dialect (generally I hate reading dialects) and he rubbed most people up the wrong way, but Andy was also funny, clever and kind. He and Charley, a student psychologist, got along like a house on fire.

Andy’s description of Doctor Lester Feldenhammer, who he calls ‘Festerwhanger” was the first thing that made me laugh aloud;

“I could tell he were a Yank as soon as he opened his gob. Not the accent but the teeth! It were like looking down an old-fashioned bog, all vitreous china gleaming white. Bet he gargles with Harpic twice a day.”

Readers familiar with the regular characters from the books or television series Dalziel and Pascoe would have enjoyed the following description of meeting up with Andy again.

“Mebbe Pete’s smile were a bit strained, and it’s hard to tell if Wieldy’s grinning or passing a hard turd, but I swear young Bowler had tears in his eyes and Ivor Novello even gave me a hug!”

I thought I had a good idea of who murdered Lady Daphne and why, but it turns out I didn’t. I was left feeling pleased with myself for picking a couple of twists which were revealed at the book’s conclusion.

My only complaint was that Charley’s emails to her sister were too contrived, with excessive description and detail, but for the purposes of telling the story in a way that honoured Sanditon, they worked.

Being unfamiliar with the books and the television series didn’t affect my enjoyment of A Cure For All Diseases, which I felt worked as a stand-alone story. I enjoyed A Cure For All Diseases so much that I would be delighted to learn that this author has written alternate versions of any other Jane Austen novels he chose to. (I can almost imagine Emma murdering someone and Dalziel sizing her up… As Jane Austen once suggested, I don’t much like Emma…)

I don’t know why I’ve never read anything by Reginald Hill before, but this year now looks as if it will be dedicated to my reading the Dalziel and Pascoe series from beginning to end, and anything else Reginald Hill has ever written.

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