Reginald Hill, On Beulah Height
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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Reginald 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.