Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

Child’s Play – Reginald Hill #20BooksofSummer

Crime Fiction
5*s

No holiday is complete without one of Reginald Hill’s marvellous books in the Dalziel and Pascoe series and fortunately despite reading many of these books previously, each has been a delight to revisit, well, except the first in the series A Clubbable Woman which was horrendously dated having been written in 1970 and in my opinion not up to those later in the series. Child’s Play was published in 1986 and manages to be both an appealing police procedural with a hefty nod to the whys as well as the who in the course of the investigation.

Mrs Gwendoline Huby has died and when her will is read by the local solicitor (I do miss these formal will readings in more modern fiction) it turns out that those who were expecting the proceeds are to be sorely disappointed. First in line to the funds is her son, Alexander Huby, presumed dead in Italy courtesy of WWII. Gwendoline Huby never believed this was the case and has steadfastly expected her son to return home during the intervening forty-year period going as far as to advertise in newspapers and pay private investigators to find him. She’s not unrealistic though so if Alexander hasn’t returned by the year 2015 on his ninetieth birthday (shocking to think that was some 30 years hence!) then the proceeds of the will are to be divided between three charities; one-third for animal rights, one-third for a services benevolent fund and the remaining third for a fascist woman’s movement.

Now as coincidence would have it on the day of the funeral a man turns. He’s about the right age has a light, but relatively accurate back story, and an Italian suit and he cries out ‘Mama’. Is he Alexander Huby returned to Yorkshire just too late, or could this be an imposter? Meanwhile, given that charity begins at home, the three charities aren’t too keen on waiting so long for the promised inheritance either and determine to act to get the rest of the family on side and the money paid out, to them!

The book is deemed a tragi-comedy in three acts by the author himself, and I really can’t disagree. What I do love about the entire series is although there is the very important matter of murder at the heart of each novel, and sometimes the characters have an urge to take themselves far too seriously there is always a thread of humour to stop proceedings from becoming too grim.

Another feature is that often one or other of Dalziel or Pascoe take the leading role, but in this delightful story we really learn more about Wield, the ugly policeman who is often given the supporting role, on the fringes of the action. In this book, very fitting for the times he is contacted by a former lover. The issue being is that Wield is gay, something the self-professed sensitive guy Pascoe has never realised and there is pressure from above when it appears the local paper is proposing an expose of homosexual policemen. Dalziel, not quite being the uncouth brute he presents himself as really gets to show us the other side, because he always knew. This, given the year of publication was possibly a timely if challenging read for crime fiction lovers; it is often only retrospectively that you realise how much attitudes have changed.

You’ll notice I haven’t said too much about the plot, there is no need, it is multi-stranded and superbly executed ably supported by a brilliant cast of characters from the provincial solicitor to the young blackmailer, from the sleazy journalist to the hard-nosed publican all there to be laughed with, and on occasion at as hopes are dashed and fears are sometimes unrealised.

Child’s Play was my sixth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and Reginald Hill made sure it was a sheer delight – I think I’m enjoying this series even more on the repeat reads.

First Published UK: 1986
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages:368
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Dalziel & Pascoe Series

A Clubbable Woman (1970)
An Advancement of Learning (1971)
Ruling Passion (1973)
An April Shroud (1975)
A Pinch of Snuff (1978)
A Killing Kindness (1980)
Deadheads (1983)
Exit Lines (1984)
Child’s Play (1986)
Under World (1988)
Bones and Silence (1990)
One Small Step (1990, novella)
Recalled to Life (1992)
Pictures of Perfection (1994)
The Wood Beyond (1995)
On Beulah Height (1998)
Arms and the Women (1999)
Dialogues of the Dead (2002)
Death’s Jest-Book (2003)
Good Morning, Midnight (2004)
The Death of Dalziel (2007)
A Cure for All Diseases (2008)
Midnight Fugue (2009)

Author:

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

18 thoughts on “Child’s Play – Reginald Hill #20BooksofSummer

  1. I loved this one, but then I loved them all! It is amazing to see how quickly attitudes have changed. I read this when it came out more or less, and definitely felt that it would have been terrible for Wieldy to be forced “out”. And I think Dalziel’s attitude towards the whole subject was one of the things that made me love him despite all the scratching and belching… 😉

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  2. I really must try more of the books in this series – more than On Beulah Height anyway. I need to investigate whether my library has them on audio. I do well with series in that manner. Love the sound of this one.

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  3. I’m so glad you liked this so well, Cleo. I’ve always thought it was brilliance on Hill’s part to have different detectives come to the fore in different books. In this cas, we learn more about Wield, which makes him a more well-rounded character (at least to me). And, as you say, it’s got a nice, multi-stranded plot. You’ve got me thinking, too, about that custom of reading wills. You don’t see that as much in modern novels, and it can add to the plot. I may have to do a post on that…

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    1. I love Hill’s methodology of giving the different detectives time in the spotlight, and this one was so well thought out.
      As for will readings, we don’t seem to get so much old fashioned greedy relations either which is possibly why the will readings have gone out of fashion – perhaps writers think that greed no longer applies although I suspect it is still a motive in the ‘real’ world

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  4. I’ve never read this author but this one looks fantastic. You’re right – I hadn’t really thought of it till now – but whatever happened to will readings??

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  5. I can’t get over that title; a clubbable woman? Oh my.

    The formal out-loud reading of the will is something I really enjoy too, that’s one of the reasons I loved Ruth Ware’s latest!

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