Wednesday, May 28

A Cure for All Diseases - Reginald Hill

Recovering from his recent near death experience, Dalziel is reluctantly recuperating at the holistic Avalon clinic in the seaside village of Sandytown, where the focus is on alternative and integrated therapies. Dalziel's been issued with a miniature disc recorder and is encouraged to talk through his feelings, for nobody's ears but his own. The development of Sandytown is a little contentious, and it comes as no surprise when one of the stakeholders dies. Pascoe's called in on the case, but he couldn't really expected Dalziel to take a back seat...
A departure from his usual style, A Cure for All Diseases combines the voices of several characters - Charlie's, in the form of emails to her sister in South Africa, Dalziel's recorded self-directed therapy, and more traditional third person narration from the perspectives of Pascoe and of Franny Roote, a nemesis from novels past. The pastiche is evidently a tribute to Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon (it's dedicated to "Janeites everywhere"), and perhaps read in that light the style works, but I found the email components (which wholly lack punctuation and are even more liberal with dashes than I) annoying:
The Great Philosophical Question occupying Sandytopnians isnt the meaning of life - or even - can England ever win the World Cup again? - any world cup! - but wholl inherit Lady Ds lolly?!
Despite this irritation, Hill has once again created an engrossing and interesting novel. The characters are well drawn and have a clear and individual voice. For those familiar with the series, the interplay between the central characters, and particularly the tension between Pascoe and Dalziel created by the latter's (presumably temporary) seniority over the latter, and how Dalziel's absence affects Pascoe's management style, are richly rewarding.
The form of A Cure for All Diseases does take a little getting used to, and I had to suspend my disbelief a little more than usual, because - while very amusing and certainly contributing to the conent and enjoyment of the text - I found it hard to believe Dalziel would happily chat away to a dictaphone.
There are Hill's trademark sly humerous asides -
Dalziel let out a sighing groan, or a groaning sigh, the kind of a sound that might well up from the soul of a tone-deaf man who has just realised the second act of Götterdämmerung is not the last.

and though long at 535 pages, the pay off is fantastic. This is not my favourite of Hill's novels, but it was well worth the ride. - Alex

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