Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Pictures of Perfection – Reginald Hill #20booksofsummer

Book 3

Pictures of perfection.jxr
Crime Fiction 5*s

What a delightful novel for me to have picked more or less at random from this wonderful author as part of my 20 Books of Summer challenge and one that couldn’t fail to remind me how well this talented author wrote exceptional tales in his many diverse books. This is the fourteenth book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, and as with any series they are probably best enjoyed if you read them in order although many, this one included, can be read and appreciated perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

Despite the book opening with a truly terrifying scene in Pictures of Perfection Reginald Hill has given us a slightly gentler read than some others in the series, although don’t be deceived, at its heart are some very black truths along with some almost prophetic happenings!

Two days before the opening in 1980s rural village of Enscombe in Yorkshire, the local bobby (yes as recently as this the local policemen still lived in the villages) goes missing. He didn’t return from his day’s leave and there is no sign of where or why he might have left. Sergeant Wield is called to the scene, he turns up in style and begins the investigation. Not long afterwards and Superintendent Dalziel gets wind that there is something amiss so he and DCI take a visit to lend a hand.

All the while those opening scenes were in my mind but I had little joy in linking this event to the half-truths and misdirection that was being played out in Enscombe by a whole host of delightful characters. We have a beautiful artist is the love object of many of the male inhabitants, the spinster who runs the hall while her father the geriatric squire is regretful that the laws of inheritance have dictated that this should actually go to Guy with his flashy cars and dress sense. Not to be out-done with have the highly religious café owner who serves her delicious cakes with an aside of bible texts, while the vicar is waiting for eviction from the vicarage when it is sold off to make money for the church. One thing the village is in agreement about is that their local school should remain open, with this in mind there is the ubiquitous fund-raising which comes with a plan B, the sale of the village green.

There is so much to delight in within the pages of Pictures of Perfection, from the links to Jane Austen both ostentatious in the excerpts at the beginning of each chapter and slightly more subtle references within the themes themselves, to the moment in history that the book evokes; this was probably the last moments where ‘village life’ could be portrayed in this manner without those who live in such places laughing at the cliché of ‘Olde Worlde Britain’ that it evokes, one where everyone knows each other better than they know themselves often bound by a common enemy or two.

You’ll be pleased and reassured to know with all the periphery views to enjoy within the pages of this novel, there is also a proper plot with a full-blown mystery or two to be solved so my favourite policemen, complete in triplicate; Wield, Pascoe and Dalziel get to business and each in their own way bring pieces of the puzzle back to the police house for examination. Meanwhile the preparations continue around them at the Hall for the ‘Day of Reckoning’, a village tradition where the rents due to the Squire are paid, and it is here that the opening passage is seen from a different perspective. While I never doubted that the trio would solve the mystery of the missing bobby, I did wonder if they would come to a conclusion for the meaning of the Hall’s motto fuctata non perfecta; fear not, all the loose ends, even those in Latin are sewn up, neatly or otherwise!

This was a perfect addition to my 20 Books of Summer challenge the only downside to reading this book on holiday was that I didn’t have ready access to a dictionary – reader, I confess, I needed one more than a few times!!

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

18 thoughts on “Pictures of Perfection – Reginald Hill #20booksofsummer

  1. Ah, always nice to come back to a writer you know you can rely on! I’ve read the D&P books all out of order (whatever I could lay my hands on at the local libraries), but they’ve been a safe bet. Glad to hear you had a good time with your #20booksofsummer.

    1. I never read them in order I used to pick up whatever the library had in – I’m sure I missed a couple along the way too. This book is quite different to some of the others in the series but one of the best in my opinion.

  2. I always feel it’s hard to go wrong with a Hill, Cleo, and I’m so glad you found this one a good read. I think he was so talented. This portrayal of village, along with everything else, is terrific. You’ve made me want to go back and re-read some of those Dalziel and Pascoe novels..

    1. You are so right – this was an author I used to go for when I wanted a sure fire winner. I have read the majority before but this one sufficiently long enough ago for it to be a sheer delight – in fact I think I appreciated it even more this time around.

  3. I love discovering a new series, especially if one doesn’t have to start at the beginning. Reading out of order is my mantra, it seems, as who has time to start at Ground Zero on all of them? lol. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a delightful read.

    1. Haha – I’ve not read these in order at all because I used to pick up whatever the library had to hand and Reginald Hill was an author I’d seek out when I wanted a sure fire winner. It’s hard to capture the many nuances within this book – I thought it absolutely delightful!

  4. Great review! Ooh, so glad you loved this one! Isn’t it just brilliant? That opening scene is fabulous as is the ending, and I love the village of Enscombe and all the people there. And I love that Wieldy gets to be the main character, more or less. I always say that On Beulah Height is my favourite crime novel, and so it its, for its depth, but this has to be my favourite in terms of sheer entertainment! Ooh, I want to start re-reading it right now!!! 😀

    1. Thank you! It was a sheer delight, especially that first scene and then your in the heart of the story and tyring to work out what’s actually going on – genius! As you say for entertainment this has to be up there with the best and yet there are still many layers to the story. So I might have beaten that pumped up willpower even though I knew you’d already read this one?

    1. The books are quite wonderful although I enjoyed the TV series too – Reginald Hill is one of those authors whose ability to be experimental within a series is quite amazing and he has a fantastic way with words (hence my dictionary comment!)

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