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3.8 out of 5 stars16
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 28 May 2002
Any Reginald Hill fan will not be disappointed with this book. At least matching, if not surpassing his usual level of story-telling, this book continues the story of the "Wordman" which began in "Dialogues of the Dead".
The book begins with several seemingly separate threads and leaves the reader wondering "how the heck is he (Hill) going to resolve this?" Having read all of the Dalziel and Pascoe stories to date, I knew this would happen. However, I was still amazed at how all the threads are finally interwoven to form the detailed tapestry that Reginald Hill usually comes up with.
In essence, a cracking story maintaining the standards Reginald Hill has set with his Dalziel and Pascoe books to date. If you haven't read Dialogues of the Dead I would recommend that book be read first though.
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on 17 April 2003
So you are a fan, read the Dialogues of the Dead and loved its subtle blend of crime and love? And now you are looking forward to what the author has in store for his newest additions to the Dalziel and Pascoe circle of friends, young DC "Hat" Bowler and his love-of-his-life Rye Pomona, both recovering from the traumatic finale of the Dialogues and its many dead indeed?
Then you'll love this Death's Jest-book because it features plenty of Rye and Hat. But as always it's fat Dalziel who's stealing (and running!) the show. Especially now that Pascoe is once again trying to deal with his eternal deamon, Franny Roote. Or is he simply playing a cruel Jest on poor Peter?
Before I start my personal appreciation a warning : although the whole series of D&P novels build on each other, this novel is a real sequel to the Dialogues. So if you haven't read the first, you'll be unable to appreciate this one.
I loved this book because it has the intrinsic Hill qualities : different story lines unfold themselves to a resolution that leaves no loose ends untied, the Dalziel character (a god's gift) and the superb storytelling talent of the author.
However, this book is not the best in the series. I've mixed feelings about the Franny/Pascoe storyline : the build up is sometimes annoying but the finale makes up for it. I expected more from a book that resolves a lot of stories spanning multiple novels. Also, for a non-native English reader, Hills wordgames and references to English literature sometimes stand in the way of the story.
Conclusion : as always solid work from Reginald Hill but only if you've read the brilliant Dialogues of the Dead.
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on 5 May 2002
After reading most of this series in the last couple of years, the disappointment that was 'Arms and the Women' did make me hesitate last year before purchasing 'Dialogues of the Dead', but I was so glad I did after I had finished reading it.
From this readers perspective Hill was back on track and so I rushed off to purchase this book on Friday and finished it today. (For some reason his books come out a few days early in Australia for which I'm thankful).
The opening page of the book reads "The jest is, the dead won't lie still in the grave", and after reading the "Death's Jest-Book" it does sum the book up.
There are various threads in the book. Franny Roote's attempt via written communication to build a relationship with Pascoe, which in turn causes Pascoe much disquiet and a resolve to prove once and for all, that Franny is guilty of someone's murder, but just whose murder is another question. Wield's nascent relationship with Lee, a rent boy he meets in a park, who becomes an unofficial informer on a crime to be committed. Hat Bowler's love for Rye Pomona, and the demons that come to her in both her days and nights. As ever the omnipotent figure that is Andy Dalziel, watches over these goings on as all the threads come together.
All the things I enjoy about Hill's writing are here, the ability to make me laugh out, to shed a tear or two, along with forcing me to think about what the outcome is going to be, without ever making it hard work. Also as per usual for myself at least, a dictionary was at my side.
I would not class this book as a sequel to 'Dialogues of the Dead', but in parts it is a follow up. For those of us who found the 'The Last Dialogue' in that book quite disconcerting, we do get some answers here.
The characterization which is such a big part of this series for me, continues to provide me with much pleasure. I found the book immensely satisfying.

I am more than happy to give the book five stars as four stars would not suffice, but if it was a sliding scale I would probably give it 4.80 stars, to leave space for my favourites which are still 'On Beulah Height' and 'Pictures of Perfection'.
Read and enjoy.
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on 6 May 2002
This book a' stand alone' sequel to 'Dialogues of the Dead continues in Reginald Hill's high standard of a well crafted thriller with believable characterisation and tight plotting (with occasional diversifications into classical literature)and provides an answer to the questions the reader would have at the end of Dialogues of the Dead. A must read for Daziel and Pascoe fans
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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.
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on 11 January 2014
After I struggled through this, trying to piece together the story, I did some checking on the web and found out that this was in fact a sequel. There was no indication on the book that it was a sequel. I couldn't enjoy the read because I had to exert such effort to understand what was going on. Okay, the references to prior events eventually tie together, but throughout the book I kept feeling like there must be a "prequel" or this author had no idea how to build a story. I'm sure I would have rated it higher if I had read the first book.
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on 22 June 2002
Hill's recent novels have been variable in quality, always good, but some better than others. Arms and the Women was irritating, but On Beulah Heights was so well crafted with layers of plot that the television version was completely unable to match. In this novel he returns to that form, so that you are continually forced to review what you have read, to try and work out at what literal or metaphorical level an idea needs to be explored. I was never sure about who was having the jest and sometimes felt that any jest was at my expense! The emphasis in this novel is on Pascoe and I always like more of Dalziel and his lack of political correctness, but the characters of Wield and other underlings were also further developed in this book. I think it absolutely vital to have read the preceding book, although at times I began to feel that I hadn't read it properly, to have been so taken in, but I guess that was one of the jests!
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This book is quite complex in terms of plotting, and the story follows on as a direct sequel to Dialogues of the Dead. Normally you can read Hill's books out of sequence, but not this one. If you try you will only end up more confused, and these two books together are quite confusing anyway.
Hill tries to keep up the intellectual tautness of the plotting of the first book, but never quite pulls it off. It is satisfactory however in lots of ways, reintroducing Pascoe's nemesis, Franny Roote who is the excellent evil doer from the much earlier, An Advancement of Learning, one of the best Dalziel and Pascoe novels. It also follows the compelling story of Hat Bowler and his relationship with his ambiguous and emotionally complex lover which began in Dialogues of the Dead.
This is quite bitty and lacks the flair of the first book, but still kept me turning the pages and is a worthy addition to the series for all its flaws.
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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2003
I was most impressed with this book, and somewhat surprised to read other reviewers' comments.
The great joy of Hill's writing is that it is such a pleasure to read. He has a very expressive way of bringing characters to life. In short, he relies on the quality of his writing even if, as here, the quality of the plot is not the highest.
Despite what the Amazon details say, this book is a thumping 668 pages long and, in my opinion, it is only the last 20 pages that let the book down.
There are a number of sub-plots, of which the jewellery heist is one, but Hill also throws in Wield's interaction with a teenage rent boy, the developing relationship between DC "Hat" Bowler and Rye Pomona, and something about a German journalist investigating whether the real "Wordman" (from Dialogues of the Dead) had been killed. All these are secondary and all bar one well written - the ending of the jewellery heist (and of the book itself) is clichéd "made for TV" stuff. Terrible.
However the real plot, if such it is, revolves around the developing relationship between the manipulative and charming ex-con Franny Roote and DCI Peter Pascoe. Mostly being developed via a series of letters from Roote to Pascoe the beauty of the book is simply reading what Hill has to write. The plot is secondary, and rather far-fetched, but we spend the first 400 pages or so, not wondering "whodunit?" but "what, if anything has, been done?". This reader, at least, was not impatient - I just loved the artistry in the journey. Quite where we're going is secondary.
"Death's Jest Book" is a supremely well written psychological drama with Roote carefully documenting his actions to a very suspicious Pascoe. Is Roote hiding something? Is Pascoe spiralling into paranoia? Well, that would be telling, but this book is, bar the last 20 pages, a joy to read.
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on 20 June 2002
Yes, the other reviewers are right. This book is brilliantly written. And it has some superbly entertaining characters. But in areas of plot, it is a bit disappointing.
Dialogues Of the Dead was a brilliant novel (my favourite book of all time, in actual fact) and as such, any sequel to it could only ever be a bit disappointing. However, i was expecting it to be a little less disappointing than this.
There are three plot strands, and as a pervious reviwer has pointed out, none of them are really resolved very sucessfully. It just feels as if Hill only ended them because the book itself had to finish sometime. The plot strand involving Hat and Rye is underdeveloped and the amount of page-space Hill takes up with it is very disappoiting. Indeed, that entire storyline is the reason for this book. And it had so much potential. it could have carried the entire book on it's own, if Hill had played it right. Instead, he didnt used it enough, and made this reader seriiously disappointed, becuase i really was only looking forward to this book so much because i was hoping for a lot more about Rye and Hat.
The main storyline between Pascoe and Roote is frankly annoying. I cannot stand the anatagonism between the pair, and it is quite quite pointless. Roote has now been in the picture for four novels, and he has more than run his course. Hopefully Hill will forget about him after this. (Although i doubt he will.) Another bone of contention: The Roote we have met in these three recent novels seems so completely different to the one we first met in "An Advancement of Learning" that it's ridiculous. In the first book, he really was a chilling egotistic psycopath. So different from what he is here.
As for the third storyline, it is interesting at first, but only as a subplot. Hill shoudl have left all the heist nonsense out of it, and just centred on Lee and Weild's relationship.
All in all, a bit disappointing when placed alongside it's excellent prequel. MInd you, Hill is still brilliant, and this is worth a read.
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