For a long time, I have been looking for a route into Reginald Hill’s extensive body of crime writing. He is most known for his Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but my multiple attempts to read A Clubbable Women, the first in the series, have been unsuccessful. Fortunately, Dalziel and Pascoe Hunt the Christmas Killer (and Other Stories) came along this year. This posthumous collection of previously unpublished stories, published this year, proved a great entry point. I feel like I came away with an insight into the scope of Hill’s work, because not all the stories are Christmassy and not all of them star Dalziel and Pascoe. One or two of them even edge closer to supernatural or weird than they do to traditional crime stories. It has a foreword from Val McDermid, which I enjoyed thoroughly, about her first experience of reading Hill and the reason she keeps coming back to him. Continuing to reread an author is a great compliment anyway – but if you are rereading the works of a crime author, that’s a particularly strong recommendation, because it means there is something to their work beyond twists and puzzles. Having read these, I can quite see why she keeps coming back to Hill – I imagine that, once I’ve made my way through his body of work, he will go onto my regular rereads list too.
As is ever the way with a short story collection, some of these are stronger than others. However, a much higher proportion of them are successes than is usual in a collection, I think – even the ones I didn’t much like were ones I didn’t like because they weren’t to my taste rather than because they weren’t well-written. (For instance, there are one or two that are explicitly from a murderer’s point of view, a device I rarely enjoy). Here are a couple that were highlights – but honestly, I loved them all!
Market Forces – Having just said that I don’t like to be inside a murderer’s head, allow me to immediately render myself a hypocrite. This story, starring extremely recent widower George Faber, starts with the following piece of advice he has often given his employees:
Cornering a market is pointless unless you’ve cracked the distribution problem.
He had been wiser than he knew, and the getting of wisdom is a great sorrow. For he had cornered the market in dead Mrs Fabers without giving any thought at all to the problem of distributing the remains.
Honestly, a story from the perspective of a somewhat incompetent wife-killer has no business being this funny, and yet! I really loved the gallows humour in this, which was threaded throughout the collection.
Where The Snow Lay Dinted – the last entry in the collection, this is a thoroughly Christmassy, funny Dalziel and Pascoe story. Dalziel has managed to get himself invited along to the Pascoes’ family Christmas in a fancy hotel, but when they wake up on the big day, the food has gone missing, along with mysterious marks in the snow… Who could it be? Really loved this – as well as being funny and festive, it’s also a surprisingly insightful look at the weird and wonderful class divides that still exist in English towns and villages.
Overall, as well as being an enjoyable introduction to Hill, this was a great way to get into the festive spirit, despite the fact that the book is so very full of bodies. I started it on the evening after I put my tree up, and it was just right. I don’t think I can give any higher compliment than saying this work reminds me strongly of PD James – though I hope that, like James’, his novels are a smidge less bleak – and I look forward to exploring his work!
I see from my records, such as they are, I read A Pinch of Snuff four years ago. The wiki summary doesn’t ring any bells. But now I want to read the SF-ish one about investigating a murder on the moon.
I hadn’t seen that there was one set on the moon, but now I want to read it too! The sheer range of the stories included in this collection impressed me hugely – he’s clearly someone who read omnivorously and was able to turn his hand to different styles and genres, which is rare, I think.
I am SO HAPPY you enjoyed this! And also glad that you thought it was a good entry point – when you know an author as well as I know Hill it can be hard to judge how a collection like this will work for people coming to him new. As far as the Dalziel and Pascoe books go, I’d skip the first couple and start around book 3 or 4 – the quality leaps up quite quickly and he sheds the outdated ’70s sexism of the first books. He ranges from dark to humorous which is half the fun – unlike a lot of other authors, you never quite know what to expect when you start a new book… 😀
Yes, it was a great entry point! I read it all in about three days. The range of the stories is one of the things that impressed me most, so I am very glad to hear that it continues through the novels as well. I will take that recommendation – book 4 is at the library and I have just reserved it! Thanks for introducing me to a great writer 🙂
Book 4 is one of the fun ones – enjoy!
I love your tree – so colourful!
Thank you! I love to have a very colourful tree – it brightens up the dark evenings 🎄
I love that the top of your tree is trying to be extra fabulous with those braches pointing up!
I love holiday collections! Unfortunately, just when I think I’m going to be less busy thanks to a break, Christmas makes me more busy, as I opt to wrap presents and bake cookies and travel.
Today I am at the start of 17 days off! I am looking forward to being very lazy and reading a lot – I do have some jobs to do but not too many.
I’m writing my Sunday Lowdown tonight, and in it I explain that I am transferring schools. My new school starts January 5th. I’ve never heard of such an early college start date!
We start back on January 3rd! Nursing always finishes late and starts early, though, so I think most people aren’t back until mid-January.