Reginald Hill, On Beulah Height

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For more than forty brilliant years Reginald Hill became the British male crime writer that the others pointed too for the high level of skill, consistency and dazzling experimentation which he brought to crime fiction through the Dalziel and Pascoe series. On Beulah Height is thought by some to be the best Dalziel and Pascoe. The story of the flooding of a small community to make way for a reservoir, and three missing young girls has all the ingredients of a multi-layered crime novel, with mixed in are child’s fairy tales, Mahler’s famous piece on the death of children, and erstwhile myths from the past. This literary cocktail contains an appreciation by Yorkshire crime writer John Baker and is the fourth novel issued by Scorpion Press in the Reginald Hill series.

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Reg HillReginald Hill was a northerner and after attending Oxford where he read English he taught at a school in Essex before moving to a Further Education College in Leeds, Yorkshire. When he set out to become a crime novelist with A Clubbable Woman (1970) Hill brought an ambition to do three significant things in this and his subsequent work: to re-work Falstaff and Prince Hal in his detective duo of Dalziel and Pascoe; to open up a commentary on the state of the social affairs in the country, in particular in northern England and on the cause of feminism; and thirdly, if that were not sufficient, to devise new perimeters for the detective/crime format by drawing on broader literary devises and forms. Over the course of more than forty brilliant years Reginald Hill became the British male crime writer that the others pointed too for the high level of skill, consistency and dazzling experimentation which he brought to crime fiction.

Much has been written about Dalziel and Pascoe – what they represent and what they tell us about the changing world around us. Similarly, Pascoe’s wife Ellie tells us much about the changing role of women; while the homosexual Sergeant Wield allows us into another area of equality and changing social perceptions. The latter books in the series explore the limits of crime fiction. The BBC bought the rights to Dalziel and Pascoe and twelve series were shown between 1996 and 2007.

Plotline: With modernity raising its ugly head in Yorkshire, the grand idea of the Water Board was to flood a local valley to make a reservoir. Of course they had to bulldoze the homes of Dendale, the farming town inconveniently situated in that valley, first, and relocate the families. That was when the children began to disappear. Andy Dalziel was a young detective in those days, and he took the case hard. Three little girls were missing in all. No bodies were ever found, and the best suspect, a strange lad named Benny Lightfoot, was held for a time, then released. The only child that escaped an attack, a plump, dark-haired girl named Betsy, said it was Benny who grabbed her. But he escaped so cleanly, even Dalziel couldn’t find him. Twelve years later, with one of the driest summers on record, the ruins of Dendale have begun to reappear in the reservoir. And the child-snatching has started again. Dalziel, older, wiser, and more caustic, is determined to get his man this time. But his partner Peter Pascoe soon has a life-and-death problem with his own daughter distracting him. Now, as the threads of past and present wind tightly into a chilling mosaic of death and vengeance, a drowned valley begins to yield up its secrets–of bones, memories, and desire–until the identity of a killer rests on what a small child saw and what another, now grown, feared with all her heart to remember….

On Beulah Height (1998) is a favourite with many readers. “Hill continues to offer the best value for the money in the contemporary mystery field”, says Kirkus. This edition of 85 signed & numbered copies has Yorkshire crime writer John Baker (Poet in the Gutter) with his appreciation of Reginald Hill.

5.00 out of 5

3 reviews for Reginald Hill, On Beulah Height

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Kirkus Reviews on June 7, 2012 :

    Kirkus Reviews
    Fifteen years ago, life in the farms of Dendale ended–not only because they were sunk beneath a newly created reservoir, but because three little girls from the neighborhood were lured away, presumably by vanished teenager Benny Lightfoot, and never seen again. Now a fourth girl has disappeared from the nearby village of Danby, and Supt. Andrew Dalziel and Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe, called in to a hopeless investigation, find themselves staring again into the same old gaping wounds of families who’ve never recovered from their agonized grief. Sightings of Benny dot the map; a graffiti artist has announced “BENNY’S BACK!”on an old railroad bridge; and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Wulfstan, adoptive daughter of one of the bereaved families, is determined to regale the crowds at the annual music festival her father sponsors with her new translation of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”). Dispersing his Yorkshire coppers as generously as searchers for the girl’s body, Hill mixes elements from Pilgrim’s Progress, a child’s fairy-tale nightmares, and Midlands mythology, and uncovers enough secrets–murder, suicide, impersonation, adultery, child abuse, family rivalries, squalid betrayals, loving cover-ups–for a season’s worth of lesser volumes. Though the dizzying complexities are even harder to keep straight than the fabulous cross-plotting of The Wood Beyond (1996), Hill continues to offer the best value for the money in the contemporary mystery field.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Angel L. Soto on June 7, 2012 :

    In RECALLED TO LIFE, Superintendent Andrew Dalziel revisited a case after the person convicted of the crime was released after the discovery of new evidence. In this novel, Dalziel will go back to the past and follow up on an unsolved case that continues to haunt this determined police office up to this day.
    Twelve years ago, the town of Dendale has been emptied of its population in order to construct a new reservoir. During the previous months, three young girls have disappeared from the now-flooded village, but they have yet to be found. During the present time, it is one of the hottest summers in history and the reservoir has dried up. Another girl has just disappeared reawakening the tragedy to nearby villages living in fear and looking for answers. Dalziel returns to the scene of the crime earning the scorn of some of the people who remember the fat man who could not find their daughters. Andy is thick-skinned and he can take it. Now with the assistance of his partner, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe and Detective Constable Shirley Novello, they will break the case and uncover a secret held by a witness after all these years.
    Reginald Hill writes a literary police procedural full of symbolic references as well as several literary allusions. There is strong characterization in the book with some of the former Dendale citizens, whom matured in over twelve years and see things in a different way. This long-running series of Dalziel and Pascoe continues to entertain due to the disparate personalities between the two together with the verbal sparring between Andy and Peter’s wife Ellie. Rosie Pascoe, the young daughter of the DCI, makes a strong appearance when one of her friends goes missing. She plays an important role and it is nice to see a child in literature acting like a child once in a while. ON BEULAH HEIGHT will stay with you after finishing making you appreciate the innate wisdom children’s share. If you have not done it yet, hug your child today, then read this book.
    Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, April 2003 and published on

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rating by John Baker on June 7, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by John Baker

    Although the Dalziel and Pascoe novels are police procedurals, the importance of the main protagonists lies not in the fact that they are policeman, but that they are real, rounded, characters. We feel we know them, that we’ve met them before, or people very like them. They are close to us. Archetypes. In Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe there are echoes of Cain and Abel, and Esau and Jacob. Dalziel is the very image of an Old Testament prophet; he is there to show others the way, and no one need doubt that he’ll be leading from the front. Andy Dalziel is a hairy man, and his brother officer, Peter Pascoe, is exceedingly smooth. There is an echo, too, in Dalziel, of Dr. Johnson’s Falstaff. He’s a Scottish Yorkshireman, crude, infuriating and tyrannical. But also funny. Comic in the way that only a despot can be. A magnificent creation, but one which could easily fall into caricature. That he never does so is witness to the amazing balancing act that Reg Hills performs every time he allows the Fat Man to walk on to a page. Peter Pascoe is pious. He is subtle and educated, a perfect foil for the unreconstructed behemoth of Dalziel. Pascoe is a family man, close to his wife, Ellie, and his daughter, Rosie. Dalziel and Ellie both think they should shape and mould Pascoe, and each of them thinks that the other one is a bad influence. Pascoe’s job is to steer a course between them, a task which sometimes seems beyond him. Occasionally Reginald Hill shifts viewpoints and takes a God’s-eye -view of his characters. It’s as if he relishes the fact that he has set them in motion along a certain path, and he knows what their destiny is, but he hasn’t told them, and he hasn’t told us yet.

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