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. View all my reviews >>