One of the common themes in police procedural crime fiction, particularly English crime fiction, is class conflict between members of the police squad. Usually this plays out as a superior officer from the upper classes has to deal with a more blue collar detective on his or her team. This theme allows the writer to explore the distinctions between social classes, and the reactions of these different classes to crimes.
In his Dalziel and Pascoe novels, Reginald Hill turns this tradition on its head, to great effect. Here, Detective Inspector Pascoe, the junior officer, is more refined. He is careful of people’s feelings, and less cynical about human nature and the nature of police work. His boss, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel, can be coarse, overbearing, and crude. He is blunt-spoken, and prone to be violent when he feels that it is necessary. Dalziel treats both his officers and the public with a genial contempt that often gets him into trouble.
Despite these differences, Dalziel and Pascoe work well together, and over the course of the novels they develop not only a strong professional relationship but also a close friendship. One of the delights of these novels is the development of the characters over time. This is true not only of the two main protagonists, but also of the array of other characters whose presence is essential to the success of the stories. These novels are as much about the lives of the characters as they are about the solution of a crime. The home lives of the both Dalziel and Pascoe, and their colleagues, are portrayed with thought, and the characters’ private lives are reflected in their work. Of particular interest, both to the reader and to the series, is Pascoe’s marriage to a Ellie, a strong-willed teacher and writer.
In many of the stories, the past intrudes on the present, particularly in the investigation of the crime. Although these novels would not be classified as “humorous mysteries,” the seriousness of the story is at times leavened by the dialogue. Hill has an ear for a funny turn of phrase, and Dalziel is never one to turn down the opportunity for a cuttingly humorous remark. There are elements of psychological thriller here as well as occasional nods to the supernatural. Both of these elements are present in A Killing Kindness, which finds the murder team investigating a series of stranglings in their Yorkshire territory.
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