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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
On Beulah Height (Dalziel & Pascoe)
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on 4 December 2017
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on 28 December 2005
One of the more disturbing books in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, in part because of the theme of serial child killing, but also because it shows that there are no easy answers. It's a complex and thought-provoking story, and one that easily supports re-reading. There is the mystery, yes, but there is also the psychological study of a village traumatised both by a series of unsolved child murders and by its forced relocation after its valley was drowned by a new water reservoir. It's also beautifully written by a master of prose. Hill brings his characters to full and vivid life, and they will linger with you for days.
Ideally the series should be read in order, and I think regular readers already familiar with the characters will get more out of this book, but it can be read as a standalone. For those familiar with the series, Hill continues to develop the story of his ongoing characters, deftly weaving it into the main plot of the book. Note that there are references to events in the previous book (The Wood Beyond) which are slight spoilers for that book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 20 November 2000
This book got under my skin completely. It was so disturbing that it was almost like a ghost story in the effect it had on me. Once more he glides easily between the past and the present and the use of multiple narrative only adds to the poignancy. The disappearance of these children is so affecting that I felt like an intruder when I was witnessing the parents' anguish and the effect on the local community. The tragedy builds and builds and scars everyone that it touches. This book is lyrical about issues that one would not expect to be treated that way and it brings out the true horror of the situation. The real poetry here was the way the author brings alive the sense of the fragile balance of life and the futility of taking it away.
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on 30 May 2017
A story that hooks you from the beginning and takes you easily and enjoyably to a great ending. Highly recommended
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on 12 February 2000
A doomed Yorskshire Valley flooded for progress, missing girls and the legend of Benny's Back, what can all this mean to Dalziel 15 years down the track, well it looks like Benny is back and another little girl has gone missing in similar circumstances, Dalziel must retrace his steps 15 years back when he was involved in the search for the missing girls. Pascoe has his own problems with his own little girl which will somehow tie everything together. This book was quite an exhaustive read with so much going on in the present and the past, how can the drowning of a valley so long ago mean so much to everyone involved in the present day and what has the childrens book "Nina and the Nix"got to do with the dissapearances ? This book has so many turns and red herrings that the only people I didn't suspect of murder were Dalziel and Pascoe. a thoroughly enjoyable read I give it five out of five. Another plus to this book is that it gives you an interest in exploring the composer Mahler to see if the music mentioned in the book is available.
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on 6 October 2013
I was pushed towards this by a fellow reviewer and Crime Queen (well crime fiction reader queen!) FictionFan, who thought this might be suitable lit ficcy for me, as I do like my dead bodies to be rather more than just a bodybag count. And if Ian Rankin also recommends Hill, who am I to demur.

This was certainly a gripping and absorbing read. Set in a partly real, partly invented area of the North Yorks Moors, it encompasses some real history that happened to real places - villages drowned to create a huge dam for urban conurbations and their water needs. Although Hill transposes these events into his enhanced locations, I have visited the area, its wildness, its beauty and its isolation and indeed read some of the history of the drowning of similar villages, and the breaking up of community.

Within this community Hill creates a police procedural around disappeared children, spanning a fifteen year period. However, the complex story is about much more than solving a crime (though that does happen)

I have never seen the TV series, and came to the relationships between the characters, the various people in the hierarchy of the police team, and the central characters of Dalziel and Pascoe themselves, completely fresh. There's a lot of the dark side of human nature (inevitably, given the subject matter) and so the sly injections of the intentional or unintentional wit, sarcasm or irony of the major players, is welcome, as is the evidence of Hill's wry, almost throwaway line in humour:

"The sun was laying its golden blade right down the centre of the street so there was no shade to be found. Dalziel thought of following the example of the owner of the white cabriolet parked in front of him which had been left with its top down and its expensive hi-fi equipment on open offer. Surely in these ecclesiastical surroundings such confidence was justified? He wound his window down an air-admitting fraction, walked a step or two away, remembered the Church Commissioners, and returned to wind the window up as far as it would go."

However, the main thrust of this is not the humour, welcome though that it is. Incredibly tightly plotted with many false conclusions which different investigating police personnel (and this reader) come to, the final revelation for me occurred right at that final page, as the last pieces of jigsaw fell into place.

Satisfyingly, nothing felt like any sort of gratuitous red herring at all, merely an echo of the frustrating and often twisting journey of solving complex crimes, against the background of all the other investigations, events and crimes which are always going on. I guess it may only be in fiction that things may seem to be linear!

The particularly potent and intense relationship between parents and children, the sense of connection to landscape, what it is to be an outsider, the masks we wear in public and the insecurities within are all part of the web of the book, and Hill a most accomplished spider, catching this fly fast.
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on 6 September 2015
The setting for this is fantastic and the crime is truly terrifying - a young girl disappearing in an area where several disappeared years before, never to be seen again. Hill makes great use of flashbacks and witness statements and even a children's book within the book to add layers of detail to the narrative. It just didn't work for me. I admit that I don't find Dalziel's sense of humour or character appealing, which is a problem that certainly isn't Reginald Hill's fault - I don't think he was written to appeal to someone like me. But I also hate the way every single character, intellectual or not, will find some reason to explain away their ability to quote, at length, fairly abstruse literature. I also found his portrayal of female characters to be unconvincing. It began to irritate me and then distract me and eventually I had to skip to the end where I found a clever conclusion to the mystery. Well worth reading if you're a Hill fan, but I can't count myself as one.
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on 2 January 2015
I'd always held crime fiction to be unashamedly populist and perceived the quality of writing to be pretty low-brow. I like modern writers but prefer something more literary like Iain McEwan or William Boyd. However, curiosity got the better of me with this book as I enjoyed the TV series where I felt that the late Warren Clarke was excellent. I didn't come to this book with great expectations despite the excellent reviews on Amazon and the opening chapters seemed to confirm by opinion as the cast of characters was initially too large to take in. However, once the story had started to establish itself I have found this book impossible to put down over the Christmas holiday and read huge swathes of it in single sittings as it is so good.

The quality of writing is very high and the characters all particularly well-drawn. I felt that the TV adaptation had a lighter touch yet the air of brooding that hangs over the story creates a menacing scenario where Hill skilfully places the reader right in the centre of the community , creating pictures in your head every bit as vivid as on screen. Dalziel and Pascoe are not the key characters in this novel with their colleagues Wield and Novello being no less significant or equally well described. Centred around the disappearance of three little girls fifteen years ago, the case picks up fifteen years later with a new disappearance. I think the cast of suspects are excellent and there are numerous twists and turns in the book, some of which can be deduced but others are quite revelatory. The landscape is also as much a character as any of the individuals and the savage beauty described is almost akin to Dartmoor in "Hound of the Bakservilles" although events take place during a heat-wave. It is a clever piece of plotting where a many of the characters have something to hide and is made more complicated by the fact that the town at the centre of the investigation is the venue for a lieder recital whose programme creepily mirrors the events under investigation.

In all fairness to Reginald Hill, this book would stand out as a good piece of literature without being singled as out a piece of crime fiction. The dialogue is crackling, the scene setting extremely vivid and the whole plot construction assembled with precision without being too smart for its own good. This is simply a brilliant book whose 514 pages were polished off by this reader in little over a week. Although there are some references which date this book to the 1990's, the quality of writing is timeless. I will be reading more Dalziel and Pascoe in future and can only concur with the other readers that this is a terrific piece of writing and a brilliant plot. Hugely recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 4 September 2013
This is a book that bears rereading, again and again. The author is so clever in the way that he weaves lots of plot threads together that you see new patterns each time. The writing is clear and descriptive but with wry and witty touches; the author has a very realistic view of life and people.

The plot revolves around a small village in the Yorkshire Dales. It is set in two time periods, the present day (1998 when the book was written) and fifteen years previously. Both years have very hot, long summers. In the past the village is preparing for evacuation before the valley is flooded for a reservoir but several small girls go missing. Betsy Allgood is a contemporary of the missing children and her journal describing the events is part of the novel with extracts between the narrative of the modern story - the author has developed a unique and identifiable voice for the diary which contrasts well with the main narrative. The main suspect is Benny, a simple minded local man who disappears and becomes a local legend.

In the present day, the hot summer is causing the waters to shrink and the flooded village to reappear. At the same time another young girl disappears and graffiti around the village says "Benny's Back". Unravelling the present mystery will also find the previous killer but it will dig up a lot more.

The plot is clever and the writing about the scenery and the Yorkshire landscape is beautiful and a bit spooky in places. What the author then does is to involve his already established investigation team of Andy Dalziel, Peter Pascoe and Edgar Wield. You don't have to have read other books with these characters to appreciate them here but if you have then you will really appreciate their quirks of character. Andy Dalziel is trying to redeem the lack of success of the past investigation in which he was involved, Peter Pascoe is the voice of reason and intelligence who still finds himself being upstaged by Dalziel, and Sergeant Wield is starting to open up more to his colleagues. The author adds a new character in Shirley Novello who gives us another perspective, not always approving, on the characters. Ellie and Rosie Pascoe are also involved and there is a heartbreaking and relevant sub-plot about what Rosie sees on her day trip out.

In addition, the author ties a lot of the sub-plots together with the visit of a well known singer who is performing songs by Mahler about dead children (I am musically illiterate so don't know if these are real songs or invented to fit the story - it doesn't really matter). Her companions are linked in many ways to the story in both the past and the present.

The whole novel creates an excellent atmosphere of tension and suspicion. You are able to contrast what has happened in the past with the present situation of the characters. The harassment of Benny as a young man who does not conform is very true to life but we see how the identification of him as the suspect has prevented justice being done. The past is very much part of the present. The characters are realistic and the writing about landscape is outstanding. The last page of this book makes me cry on every reading.

This is an outstanding crime novel and highly recommended.
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on 18 November 2009
I have read many of the Dalziel and Pascoe books, and tried to keep to chronologcal order. This is one of the latest and one of the best.

Fifteen years ago three small girls disappeared and were never found. The chief suspect, a mentally challenged youth, has no evidence against him and is released. He then disappears, and to close things off the valley where it all takes place is flooded to become a reservoir and the inhabitants move to the other side of the hill.

Now, fifteen years later, another girl disappears. This is disturbing for Dalziel (and Wield) who were involved in the original enquiry with little success. To complicate things there are sightings of the original suspect.

Dalziel, Pascoe, Wield and Novello all contibute to the investigation and at least two suspects are shown to be in the clear.

To tighten the emotional screw Pascoe's daughter is seriously ill and an up and coming classical singer, a friend of the three missing girls, returns to the area to give a concert featuring her translation of Mahler's "Songs for Dead Children" cycle.

Good characterisation and writing as always from Mr Hill. The denoument is not that surprising (there are only limited suspects really) but it slipped by me.



There are 2 drawings in the book, rather surprisingly, one is a map of the area, the other of the design for a CD sleeve. These are not just there for decoration.
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