Top critical review
16 people found this helpful
The jest's on you!
on 19 April 2003
I knew I was going to be disappointed. How could I possibly not be? After all, this book follows on from Dialogues of the Dead (which, by the way, is a masterpiece and the best book I have ever read). However, while I was expecting disappointment, I wasn't really expecting it on quite such a large scale.
Hill here tries to juggle three plots at once, and for the most he does the actual juggling quite well, but ultimately each plot is disappointing and the endings unsatisfying.
Firstly, Pascoe's mind is occupied once again by Franny Roote, a killer he once sent to jail. However, now released, the cunning and intelligent Roote is trying to convince Pascoe that he's changed his ways and just wants to get on with his book on the poet T.L. Beddoes. But Pascoe is still convinced Roote has a more sinister agenda... Then, there is DC Wield, who attempts to rescue a lad he thinks is in danger, but instead finds himself with a street-wise rent-boy under his wing. Then, when he lad gives him a tip-off about a long-planned robbery, good old Wieldy finds himself in a bit of a pickle... And then, of course, there's Hat Bowler, living in bliss with girlfriend Rye Pomona, the librarian whom he became so entangled with during the brilliance that was "Dialogues of the Dead". But even with them, too, something shattering lurks on the horizon...
This book may be very very well written, and very funny at times (Hill is on form there, at least), but that just isn't enough. The characters are ok and well developed, at least that much can also be said. However, you get the impression that Hill just got tired of his "Hat/Rye" storyline (such a joy in the last book) and tried to give them as little page-space as he could get away with, making their storyline - potentially the best - the most disappointing, and ending it annoyingly conveniently. Pascoe's storyline is just plain annoying. The long, dull, rambling letters Roote is writing to him get annoying almost as soon as they begin, and yet we are forced to endure an incessant barrage of them throughout the book! The antagonism between the two is also incredibly annoying, and I'm dead sick of it. It's now been going on for three books, and it still doesn't appear to be over. (Additionally, it's frustrating that the Roote we meet now just isn't the same person as the egotistical, cold killer we met in "An Advancement of Learning"). Wield's storyline is the most enjoyable, but in the end even that degenerates into a mundane heist plot-line that not even Hill's interesting writing style can make engaging.
Hill has tried to do too much, and spoiled it. This could have been a great book, but it really only serves to ruin the previous one, which it is nowhere near as good as. If you've not read Dialogues of the Dead, be sure to do so without delay, and then read this 2.5 star effort only if you have to.
For those readers that loved Dialogues of the Dead, the jest's on us.