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Turns out Dalziel is alive and kicking, not a bit dead. But then, who ever believed that anything else was going to be the case. After the explosion that briefly felled him, the Fat Man is recovering very nicely at the Avalon clinic in the seaside resort of Sandytown, a town renowned for healing and alternative therapies. And changes are afoot. The principle landowner, much-married Lady Daphne Denham, and her business partner (her fuelled by money and him idealism) have big plans for the town, rebranding the place as a centre dedicated to alternative therapy, and remarketing the Avalon clinic. It's clear there are tensions lurking, especially as regards Lady Denham and her concomitant heirs, who troupe around in a sophisticated game of who'll-come-up-trumps-in-the-will. It's some time before anything murderous actually happens, but happen in does, in notably gruesome fashion. Enter, then, Pascoe, who must get to the bottom of the problem. Helped and hindered by Dalziel, of course, who can't resist doing a bit of extra-curricular investigating himself. With mixed consequences...

A Cure for All Diseases proves to be a rabble-rousing return to the fray for Dalziel, though it is a novel that should be approached with caution if you like your murder mysteries told conventionally. There are three main strands to the book. There's standard third-person narrative, yes, but there's a lot else too: large parts are told from Dalziel's first-person perspective, as he dictates a diary into a Dictaphone provided by his doctor (these sections are hugely enjoyable, but I still can't really see it happening). The remaining parts consist of emails from Charlotte Heywood (a recently graduated psychologist who has been persuaded to cast a scientifically-biased eye over the therapies that go on) to her sister, relating everything that goes on in the town and the things she notices. And it's these that are the problematic ones. Heywood is in a brilliant position to witness events that are crucial to the story, or could be, and Hill uses this excellently. However, I suspect many people (and a brief peruse of amazon confirms this) will not find these emails easygoing, especially Hill's core readership. They are written as genuine informal emails are - without such things as apostrophes, much regard for grammar, spelling, etc. They are not, let us say, a form of writing that's very easy to read, or get used to, if you don't use it yourself. Even I found them a little excessive at times, though for their length more than anything else, and the fact that I so enjoy the other two styles. The use of emails is not exactly new (as any reader of Minette Walters will know), but to include any in the style of these in a novel is a bold move indeed. And Hill does use them to illustrate the character of Charlotte Heywood brilliantly.

Apart from that, and the fact that it's admittedly a little long, A Cure for All Diseases is first class. Hill's style out of the emails is as entertaining as ever, his characters as engaging as ever, his plotting as exemplary as ever. And there's such social depth to it all. The novel begins with a dedication to Janeites (Austen fans), and with an epigram from Sanditon, her unfinished novel. The text that follows is clearly heavily influenced by Austen and her unfinished novel (I haven't read it, but even from a glance at wikipedia I can see parallels). The social aspects of the novel, the depth of the townly and familial relations, the three suitors who catch Heywood's eye (even if one of them is Franny Roote, here making his finest appearance in a Hill novel), all of it is Austenesque. And that may contribute to why it sometimes feels a little overlong (no offence to Austen fans, of course!) Many of Hill's novels are influenced by different dusty corners of the literary world: Arms and the Women by Greek and Roman poetry, Death's Jest Book by T.L. Beddoes, Dialogues of the Dead by the Lucian dialogues, and Good Morning, Midnight by Emily Dickinson. In fact, if I recall, Austen has popped up before in Pictures of Perfection. Hill is clearly a huge fan, and this latest entry is perhaps his most accomplished appreciation yet, certainly it is the fullest in scope. One senses a labour of love.

So, to sum up: mostly brilliant. The matriarchal Daphne Denham is a great character, as are most of them rest of them, but she stands out. Dalziel is on supremely entertaining form, and his convalescent musings are often hilarious. There are times when I was starting to think it was overlong and had better have a darn good end, and indeed it does! The mystery aspects of the plot are just as fine as Hill has ever done. It would be difficult to recommend it unreservedly, because it is definitely the case that some readers will find the emails very hard going (as the vastly mixed reviews here prove). However, you get used to them, and towards the last half of the book they do start petering out. What you're left with is a very fine novel, full of everything we love reading Reginald Hill for, and that is well-worth your while persevering with.
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Like other reviewers, I found this hard going in places. The story is told both in Andy Dalziel's voice (dictating his thoughts into a tape recorder: he isn't a master of the technology) and in that of Charlotte Heywood, a young student emailing her sister (of course, she is mistress of that one: I suppose to be right up the moment she should be Facebooking or Tweeting, but that would be hard to integrate into the narrative.) There are also conventional third person sections.

The book opens in one of Charlotte ("Charley's") emails and her contributions - lacking punctuation - apart from lots of dashes - and slopily speled - can be annoying. The lowest point for me was when I thought they were all done with, and then they started up again.

Yet the technique grew on me. To my shame, I haven't read 'Sanditon", the (unfinished) Jane Austen novel which inspired 'Cure' (set in Sandytown). I assume that story would have been told at least partially in letters, so we have here a modern version of a traditional form. I see from Wikipedia (I know, I know...) that 'Sanditon' concerns the development of a seaside town and that the town is constructed as much through the characters' evocation as it is physically, so there are clear parallels. Before I'm consigned to Pseuds' Corner, I should add that the different points of view allowed by the email/ voice recording technique allows Hill to get to places - and present facts - in a natural way that might otherwise be hard, so it is a definite addition to the crime novelist's toolbox, not just a stylistic quirk.

So, the way the story is told is potentially 'difficult' but has its merits. What else? The book carries the relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe quite a way forward - Pascoe is enjoying his independence, and we see how Andy reacts to that, and also how the ripples affect Wield. For long term fans this will be the most interesting aspect, perhaps, more so than the story itself which, while well plotted and satisfying, is nothing out of the ordinary (at least not compared to "The Death of Dalziel"). The reappearance of Franny Root is also welcome, and I suspect he'll be back.

In short, I think you'll either love this book, or leave it half finished. Probably not one to start with if you haven't read any Dalziel and Pascoe before ("Death of Dalziel" would be much better there) but hugely enjoyable if you can bear with the emails.
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on 30 December 2008
I'm usually a great fan of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but this is one of the poorer ones. Frankly the first 200 or so pages are not worth reading and are very dull. It's only on Page 205 (in my paperback edition) when the murder finally happens that the novel actually commences. If I were you, I'd start there and you've lost nothing. I can also recommend skipping entirely any of Charley's boring and long-winded emails - they're not worth the read either. Other than that, the rest of it is fine. Though there are far, far too many exclamation marks scattered throughout the book, which gives an unfortunately amateur feel.

The one really good thing is at least we do get a lot of the marvellous Franny Root - he's fabulous and holds the book together. More power to his elbow, as that's a hard task indeed.

One for the committed fans only, and let's hope Hill is back on form with the next one.
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on 16 January 2009
Being a daily commuter, I spend nearly three hours a day on a train ... excellent opportunity to read. Picking up a few books each month, I went perusing for a new load of train entertainment and stumbled over this book. Having been a long time fan of the Dalziel & Pascoe TV show, it was quickly decided I would give this one a go.

After only a few pages, it became obvious that my three hours on the train were too short, I had trouble putting this book down. My first encounter with Reginald Hill is definitely not going to be my last one.

Anyway, I personally love this kind of storytelling where a story gets built up by using different angles.

The idea of Dear Mildred the mp3 recorder used by Dalziel to spill his inner musings, adds a significant level of depth to the character and is funny as hell - usually left me with a daft grin on my face.

The eMails ... anyone who's got kids at home will recognize this kind of writing, they actually do write that way, mostly even worse (long live text message language *insert random roll eyes emote here*). They may seem a bit long winded but they tell the story beautifully as seen through the eyes of Charley who simply dumps her thoughts in them while letting her mind go all over the place. To me, she felt as being a young female Fat Man, something which Dalziel seems to think himself. Nice addition as a character and I hope Dalziel can convince her to become a detective.

Then there is the third person perspective which acts as the glue to make it all come together.

Simply put, I loved reading this book and it was with pain in the heart that I turned the last page over. I can understand however that building up a story the way it's done here, is not everyone's cup of tea. But if you enjoy buildups starting from different angles and ultimately see them fill up each other's blanks, adding significant detail to the story in the process, you'll thoroughly enjoy this book.

The only negative thing to note is that is a few hundred pages too short.

Enjoy.
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on 4 March 2011
Overall this was disappointing... Around 200 pages of scene-setting before anyone drops dead can only be justified in a whodunnit where the characterisation and narrative are flawless, and though there are well-written, impressive personalities on display, I found the book dragging on at this stage. As other reviewers have commented, the e-mail style in which most of this section is written is annoying, especially as the sloppy punctuation it uses forces the reader into regular double-takes ('I can't see how a 'shed' fits into that sentence!? Oh, I see, he meant 'she'd'... well why not say so in the first place?).

When the mystery finally appears it unrolls in good Hill style, with nice elements of interplay between Dalziel and Pascoe. Yet as Dalziel says shortly before the end, things somehow don't seem properly finished, even a few pages later at the real ending. Despite the all-too-neat conclusion provided by a character who is fast becoming Hill's favourite deus ex machina device (I'm not saying who to avoid plot spoilers), it fails to convince. Though the various threads are tied up coherently, the execution of this climactic revelation is forced, and there might be a couple of endings that would feel more satisfying.

Some good characters, some good plotting, some good writing, but the whole doesn't fully gel. Redeemed by (all-too-briefly covered) interesting developments in the relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe, but not a highlight of the series by any means.
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on 14 November 2009
The career of Dalziel and Pascoe started in the early 1970's, and their creator's habit of putting topical references in his novels means there is not much room for pretending they are still in the flower of youth. By my reckoning they are both past retirement age, but there is a long tradition of fictional detectives apparently having a mirror in the attic (including both Poirot and Miss Marple), so this fan is happy to forget their age and concentrate on the plot. But what about Franny Roote? Didn't he first appear in D&P novel number 2 - "An Advancement of Learning"? Yet in this novel he is described as a dishy young man. Even if he is as slow to age as D&P he should be in early middle-age by now, and if not he is in his late fifties -- an unlikely sex object for the heroine: a young psychology graduate in her early twenties.

Reginald Hill seems to be very fond of his creation Franny Roote, the not quite psychopathic, not quite Ripley, not necessarily guilty, (might be a) villain. I'm not, and I think this novel would have worked just as well without him.

Apart from that, this is a very enjoyable D&P outing and Reginald Hill is on good form with all the usual ingredients: literary references, earthy Northern humour, and a plot to keep you guessing.
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on 29 December 2008
The Fat Arm of the Law is indeed back, sort of. It's not just the principal character which is overweight, as this ultimately frustrating book drags on rather too long and is very unsatisfactorily concluded.

Neither the crime nor the victim are a great surprise and a lot of fun is to be had in the build-up of the various protagonists/suspects, but, once the crime has been committed, the book's momentum is lost. Perhaps taking so much out of its usual context is unsettling and the arrival of Pascoe and Wield seems more like an invasion, but it gave me the impression the author has lost some affection for the characters and is perhaps becoming bored with Dalziel and Pascoe.

This book reminds me of much of Dick Francis' output, a good story spoiled by a weak conclusion. I would almost go so far as to recommend avoiding this one, especially having enjoyed The Death of Dalziel more than any other in the series. My hesitation in doing so is that half of this book is very enjoyable, but that is spoiled by the messy, frustrating and implausible conclusion. The format, in six parts, is insignificant and seems rather pointless.
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on 18 May 2008
This book is really beautiful. I am a great Hill fan, and I found here all his best qualities: irony, depth, great writing, great characters, ambiguity, experimentation, great literary culture, total creative freedom, and a supreme sense of human contradictory values.

Moreover, it's really a pleasure to hear Dalziel's voice "directly": although it seems really impossible, his character is definitely still growing, demonstrating that he is one of the best literary creation in modern fiction.

This book is a perfect companion to "The death of Dalziel", which it continues and completes. I am really looking forward to reading the announced new "Joe Sixsmith" book!
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on 21 October 2008
Having seen some of the negative comments about this book I came to it with pretty low expectations. I know, through reading some of the more recent D&P (Dalziel & Pascoe) novels, that Reginald Hill can sometimes alienate the reader when he trys to be too clever in his style but thought that in this book his inventive approach to story telling worked very well.

Yes, a lot of the story is told through emails, sent by one of the characters to her sister, which some reviewers find hard to read due to the poor grammar and spelling. I personally had no problem with this - in fact the spelling and grammar was actually much better than in the majority of emails that I receive on a daily basis.

A large chunk of the book is also told through the thoughts of Dalziel. I really enjoyed these sections as they contained some of the gems of humour that for me make D&P novels stand out way in front of the majoority of crime-fiction.

The ending does possibly get a little convoluted and far fetched, while still managing to end tied up rather too neatly, but by God it was entertaining getting there.

Fully recommended!
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I have read all the novels in this series and I was really expecting terrific things from this latest Dalziel and Pascoe. The last book, in which Dalziel is blown up by a terrorist bomb was one of the finest books by Hill for a very long time and I really had hoped he had gotten back into his stride. I confess to being sorely disappointed by this effort.

It picks up where the last book left off, with Dalziel recovering in a convalescent home in a fictional seaside resort of Sandytown. The book is written from several narrative viewpoints and I really think that this is one of the things that lets it down. Hill inhabits Dalziel and Pascoe like a comfortable coat, but his ability to switch voices doesn't seem well tuned here. Much of the first part of the book is taken up with the e-mail correspondence of a young woman who is a newly trained clinical psychologist, talking to her sister about her stay in Sandytown. I found it impossible to believe that a) Charley was a woman and b) that Charley was a trained anything. The lack of spelling, punctuation and attention to grammar coupled with improbable linguistic usage and ridiculously long descriptive passages just did not work at all and left me irritated beyond belief. Nobody writes e-mails like these, except in books.

The other thing is that this is a very long book with a ridiculously complex plot and I found that the pudding was rather over egged. Nothing really happens for a good two hundred pages and then at the end everything is sewn up in about fifty pages. It was unbalanced, unwieldy and a real trial to read. I persevere with Hill because when he is good he is almost unbeatable at modern crime fiction, but when he is bad he is execrable. Sadly this is one of the bad ones. To be read only if you are a die hard fan and want to find out more about the long term plot arcs of the series. Otherwise, as a stand alone crime novel I would say it is a poor read and a waste of valuable time and money.
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