Drowned villages, lost daughters and the Fat Man
I was pushed towards this by a fellow blogger and Crime Queen (well crime fiction reader queen!) FictionFan, who thought this might be suitable lit ficcy for me, as I do like my dead bodies to be rather more than just a bodybag count. And if Ian Rankin also recommends Hill, who am I to demur.
This was certainly a gripping and absorbing read. Set in a partly real, partly invented area of the North Yorks Moors, it encompasses some real history that happened to real places – villages drowned to create a huge dam for urban conurbations and their water needs. Although Hill transposes these events into his enhanced locations, I have visited the area, its wildness, its beauty and its isolation and indeed read some of the history of the drowning of similar villages, and the breaking up of community.
Within this community Hill creates a police procedural around disappeared children, spanning a fifteen year period. However, the complex story is about much more than solving a crime (though that does happen)
I have never seen the TV series, and came to the relationships between the characters, the various people in the hierarchy of the police team, and the central characters of Dalziel and Pascoe themselves, completely fresh. There’s a lot of the dark side of human nature (inevitably, given the subject matter) and so the sly injections of the intentional or unintentional wit, sarcasm or irony of the major players, is welcome, as is the evidence of Hill’s wry, almost throwaway line in humour:
The sun was laying its golden blade right down the centre of the street so there was no shade to be found. Dalziel thought of following the example of the owner of the white cabriolet parked in front of him which had been left with its top down and its expensive hi-fi equipment on open offer. Surely in these ecclesiastical surroundings such confidence was justified? He wound his window down an air-admitting fraction, walked a step or two away, remembered the Church Commissioners, and returned to wind the window up as far as it would go.
However, the main thrust of this is not the humour, welcome though that it is. Incredibly tightly plotted with many false conclusions which different investigating police personnel (and this reader) come to, the final revelation for me occurred right at that final page, as the last pieces of jigsaw fell into place.
Satisfyingly, nothing felt like any sort of gratuitous red herring at all, merely an echo of the frustrating and often twisting journey of solving complex crimes, against the background of all the other investigations, events and crimes which are always going on. I guess it may only be in fiction that things may seem to be linear!
The particularly potent and intense relationship between parents and children, the sense of connection to landscape, what it is to be an outsider, the masks we wear in public and the insecurities within are all part of the web of the book, and Hill a most accomplished spider, catching this fly fast.