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Review: Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill 
28th-Oct-2009 07:38 am
silver and steel

Bones and Silence (Dalziel and Pascoe Mysteries (Paperback)) Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While I enjoyed the first of the Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries, A Clubbable Woman, I thought this one was better. Hill has fleshed out the personalities of his two lead sleuths. I found myself not particularly liking Dalziel in the first book - his unreconstructed blokishness was just a bit much. In Bones and Silence, Dalziel is still the same crude, hard-drinking policeman who's not above a little bending the rules to catch a guilty man, but he has a sympathetic side. Pascoe has been fleshed out as well.

Hill has also really brought his unnamed Northern town setting to life. I have very little experience of Northern English towns, so I can't really speak to the accuracy of it, but the place is crammed with the kind of odd details and quirky minor characters that certainly suggest verisimilitude.

There are two major mysteries to be solved in Bones and Silence. First, Andy Dalziel looks out of his kitchen window one night to see a man and a woman struggling with a gun in an adjacent house. A shot is fired, and he arrives to find the woman dead, and her husband holding the gun. Dalziel thinks it's murder, but the husband claims that his wife was attempting to kill herself, and that the gun went off as he tried to take it from her. It looks like a verdict of suicide is going to prevail, unless Dalziel and Pascoe can unearth more evidence.

The second plot involves a series of letters sent to Dalziel by an anonymous writer who says she's decided to kill herself at a specified date in the future. Pascoe sets out to find out who she is before it's too late.

There's a side plot involving the efforts of a local community theater director to put on a staging of medieval mystery plays, with local people playing all the parts. Hilarity ensues when she casts Dalziel as God, and his murder suspect as Satan.

The resolution of the murder plot for me falls just on the right side of the line between "satisfyingly improbable" and "totally outlandish". Somewhat more skeptical readers might have a problem. I wasn't completely happy with the resolution of the suicide letter plot - it's plausible, but perhaps I just didn't want that particular character to be so deeply unhappy.

Definitely worth a look if you want a literate, twisty, mystery with lots of local color.

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28th-Oct-2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
How much do you feel reading these in order matters? Our library has neither of the two you mention, and I prefer to start series at the beginning when possible.
28th-Oct-2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
They're pretty readable out of order. There are a number of books between A Clubbable Woman and Bones and Silence, and while there are enough references to past events in Bones and Silence to make me want to track down and read some of those books, I didn't feel like I was missing anything critical.

Also, while I enjoyed A Clubbable Woman, I don't really feel that it's representative of the series at its best. Grabbing a book from the middle of the series would probably give you a better idea of whether it's enough your cup of tea to commit to the rest.
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