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Count of Cumbria
on 27 July 2010
I have admired Mr. Hill since I first read him, more than twenty years back. O.K. I'll admit I was disappointed in his last two Dalziel/Pascoe books, Midnight Fugue and A Cure for All Diseases,(the better American title being the Price of Butcher's Meat). This is the kind of book, he wrote under Patrick Ruell sobriquet, the best of which being The Long Kill.
Now, by own mention on more than one occasion, this is Mr. Hill's tribute to Alexander Dumas. Craftily, he doesn't follow the escape route ( a nice touch when the warden says after discovering the book, he was not worried about Hadda digging a tunnel)
Wolf Hadda, a son of a game keeper (shades of D.H. Lawrence, Mr. Hill milks it to an absurd denouement), marries the daugher of the powerful landowner after he makes a fortune and is able to mix in society, conditions laid out by his wife to be, the nuble, Imogen.
He is framed and his wife leaves him for his attorney, Toby Estover (even the name is derivative like the concept, Toby Esterhaze of John Le Carre's Karla Trilogy), and the story moves at a brisk pace. The one loveable character Dr. Alva Ozigbo is the recent trend of mystery writers to put in at least one immigrant minority, is irrestible. She also reminded me of Sgt. Cambridge in the series Pie in teh Sky. (If a movie were made of this book, Bella Enahoro would be a perfect fit for Alva. Mr. Hill is a past master of framing elegant sentences, 'I had to breaks some icicles . . . or I would have been speared,' to literary allusions, none more so than an Othello under the weather.
I loved the first 300 pages and I was going to give the book a five star review and then the roof caved in. Mr. Hill resorted to usual gimmicks, a murder that was not a murder, scenes of axe chopping trees and, yes, at times people. That's the weakest and most annoying part of the narrative. The addition of the Russian character (Nikiti/Nicotine) is so blatantly a filler that readers would gasp and ask if Mr. Hill had to resort to this kind of a trick to push the book to 500 plus pages? If the editors had chopped off a hundred odd pages this would have been a better book. As it is, it's not bad. Hill starting off at the top and sliding down by the end. Well, he's not young any more.
A more penetrating next Dalziel and Pascoe, please. Perhaps Elie can have cancer and get cured (in three novels?)
His writing holds up, but shows signs of overwriting.
Still, heads above the junk turned out by so called best selling writers.
Thanks, Mr. Hill.