This is the fourth novel in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, which was made into a hugely popular BBC TV serial. Supt Dalziel is rescued from a flood by a group of mourners. Bonnie Fielding seems far from worried about her husband's demise and Dalziel soon begins to fall for her, ignoring his suspicions. Soon her mansion is littered with corpses and Pascoe must rescue Dalziel from making a fool of himself.
About the Author
Reginald Hill (1936-2012) was an English crime writer best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe series. He began the series in 1970 with the book A Clubbable Woman; he would go on to write two dozen books in the series, which would later be adapted by the BBC. In 1995 he was awarded the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. The last book he published before his death was 2010's The Woodcutter.
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No one knew how it came about that Dalziel was making a speech. Pascoe had with great reluctance let himself be persuaded into a church wedding, partly by the argument sentimental (Mum's looking forward to it), partly by the argument economic (Dad's paying for it), but mainly by the suspicion, hotly denied but well supported by circumstantial evidence, that Ellie herself wanted it.
But they had been agreed about the mother. In the event, they were drinking champagne and eating creamed chicken canapés, but at least they were on their feet, able to mingle freely, and no one was going to start reading telegrams and making speeches. Especially not Detective Superintendent Andrew Dalziel.
'I reckon I know Sergeant Pascoe, Inspector Pascoe, Peter, as well as anybody,' proclaimed Dalziel.
'It can't be the drink,' murmured Pascoe. 'He never gets drunk. Not so you'd notice.'
That's on scotch. Dad says he's sunk two bottles of Champagne so far,' said Ellie.
'He's counting, is he?'
'No! He just noticed, mainly because merry Andrew there keeps calling it perry. Which hurts when you've paid for genuine non- vintage Champers.'
They giggled together and drew some reproving glances from a group of elderly relations who clearly believed that Dalziel's speech was the first reassuringly normal thing at a wedding where the bride had not worn white and there was no sit-down meal at the reception. If you do it standing up, it doesn't count was a maxim which could carry a decent body through nearly all of life's tribulations.
'He's a good policeman,' Dalziel assured the elderly relatives. 'He'll go far. Deserves every success. I've encouraged him from the start. And I don't flatter myself when I say I've managed to give him a bit of a leg-up ...'
He paused and mopped his brow with a huge khaki handkerchief. The bald patch, uncompromisingly visible through the grey stubble of his hair, shone with sweat. He smiled now as he lumbered towards a dirty wedding joke, and with his shining face, broad smile, broader paunch, and the Champagne glass held perpetually at the ready a foot from his lips, he should have been a figure of Pickwickian jollity. Instead, he looked as if he had just kicked the door down and was demanding that no one moved as he had the place surrounded.
'... a bit of a leg-up in his career,' he resumed. 'But he'll have to manage by himself tonight.'
'Oh Jesus,' breathed Pascoe.
The elderly relatives didn't much care for the joke but were still willing to give marks for effort.
'Ellie I don't know so well. But she'll do very well, I'm certain. My old Scottish grand-dad used to say, when you're picking a lassie, start at the bottom and work up. Broad hips for the bairns, broad shoulders for the housework, and a broad smile for good-nature and a peaceful life. Ellie, now ...'
Some early-warning system must have told him that he was heading into troubled waters.
'Ellie,' he repeated. 'It's a hard job being a policeman's wife. Not every woman can do it. But if she can, and I'm sure Ellie can, then it's a grand and rewarding task. There's nothing better for a policeman than to be well looked after at home. Nothing. I can tell you ... I've been looked after in my time ... once ...'
'In every Toby Belch there's an Andrew Aguecheek trying to get out,' murmured Ellie. 'I think he'd have been better droning on about my big mouth and huge bum.'
'So I give you,' cried Dalziel, explosively recovering from his introspective lapse, 'the happy pair! May their lot be a happy one!'
'The happy pair!' echoed the assembled crowd of about forty relations, colleagues, friends, while Pascoe and Ellie looked at each other with love and speculation in their eyes.
Later as they ran across the car park of the Three Bells to Pascoe's ancient Riley, it was Dalziel who trotted alongside them, using a Martini table- parasol to fend off the rain which had been beating down unremittingly on Lincolnshire for twenty-four hours.
'Good luck,' mouthed Dalziel at the passenger window. To Ellie he was almost invisible through the running glass. She smiled and waved. Her parents and the other guests had not risked their wedding finery in the downpour, which meant that at least they were spared the usual primitive valedictory rites. It also meant that she couldn't see anyone to wave at except Dalziel and even he had moved out of their way round the back of the car.
'Let's go,' she said.
Looking back, she saw him standing in the middle of the car park, waving the umbrella in a gesture of farewell and (accidentally, she hoped) menace.
'You're sure he doesn't know where we're going?' she asked Pascoe anxiously.
'No one does,' he replied with confidence.
'Thank God for that. I wouldn't put it past him to decide to spend his holiday with us.' She relaxed with a deep sigh, then suddenly laughed. 'But he was funny, wasn't he? Leg up!'
Pascoe laughed with her and they even managed to laugh again five minutes later when they were stopped by a police Panda driver, curious to know why they were towing a police helmet, a police boot and a banner inscribed Hello! Hello!! Hello!!!
'I thought it went very well, George,' said Dalziel. 'Very well.'
He sounded self-congratulatory as though he had arranged the ceremony himself.
'I suppose it did,' said Detective Inspector George Headingley, glancing at his watch. He and Dalziel were the sole survivors of five policemen who had travelled down from Yorkshire for the wedding. In fact they were the sole survivors of the entire wedding group and it was only his awareness of their profession and status which prevented mine host of the Three Bells from pushing them out into the gloomy damp of a late spring afternoon in Lincolnshire.
'Stop looking at your watch, George,' said Dalziel. 'Have another drink.'
He had abandoned the pernicious 'perry' and obtained a bottle of the true Hippocrene, Glen Grant straight malt, two large doses of which had restored him to his customary dignity and composure.
'I really mustn't, sir,' said Headingley. 'It's all right for you, but I've got to drive back this evening. God knows what's happened back there with all the best minds down here!'
'Mondays are always quiet,' pronounced Dalziel. 'One for the road. A small one.'
Headingley knew better than to resist when Dalziel insisted. He watched the broad strong hand pour another measure of scotch into his glass. There was no unsteadiness, no wastage. 'A small one,' to Dalziel was the precise equivalent of a Scottish pub double. Dalziel's ancestry had long been subsumed by his Yorkshire upbringing, but in some matters he was true to his heritage. He tended to become very sad at the sight of an English small whisky and very irritated when people mispronounced his name.
Headingley had known him, or known of him, all his working life. Dalziel had been a sergeant when Headingley joined the mid-Yorkshire force and his reputation was already established. Thick as two short planks, opined the scions of the uniformed branch. But if you get hit by two short planks, it doesn't half hurt.
His rise to his present rank of Detective Super-intendent had not been meteoric, but it had been inevitable. When the hippo comes up for air, the lighter creatures of the surface impede the process at their peril. These lighter creatures had included his wife.
Headingley did not like the man, but in his own interests had developed a protective shield of long-suffering diffidence which passed for a relationship. He usually contrived to be on the move in Dalziel's vicinity and letting himself be pinned down like this was an error attributable to champagne and post-wedding sentimentality. And also, he suspected, to a reluctance on Dalziel's part to be left to himself.
'Do you think they'll make a go of it?' he asked suddenly.
'What?' said Dalziel.
'Pascoe and his missus.'
The fat man shifted his bulk, not visibly affected by several months of intermittent dieting, and fixed his wide, short-sighted gaze on Headingley.
'Why shouldn't they?' he asked aggressively.
He feels protective, thought Headingley. Mustn't say anything against his precious whizz-kid, must we?
Absurdly, he realized he felt jealous.
Downing his drink, he pushed himself out of the chair.
'No reason,' he said. 'Must be off now, sir. Quiet or not, some of us will be back at work tonight.'
'This is the first holiday I've taken in God knows how long,' answered Dalziel. 'I'll be back in a fortnight today.'
There was a plaintive note in his voice which alarmed Headingley more than aggression.
'Have you decided what you're doing yet?' he asked cautiously.
'No.' The grizzled head shook ponderously. 'I'll just drive around a bit. Look at the countryside if I can see it for this bloody rain.'
Headingley's voice was studiously neutral, but Dalziel shot him a malicious glance.
'Of course, if I get bored, I might just come back early. Take you all by surprise. Give you all your sticks of rock where you're not looking for them.'
'That would be nice,' said Headingley. 'Enjoy yourself, sir. See you the week after next.'
Dalziel slowly screwed the top back on his bottle after Headingley had gone. Next he rose, not unsteadily but with a slowness which in another man might easily have become unsteadiness. He had taken the precaution of booking in at Orburn's main hotel, the Lady Hamilton, situated only a couple of hundred yards from the Three Bells. A short brisk walk was just what he needed now. It would blow, or in this weather wash, the stuffiness out of his mind, set him up nicely for a good solid meal. These buffets were all right but they didn't give a man anything to get his teeth into, especially a man who had resolved to forget his diet while on holiday.
But at the hotel he met a set-back.
'The restaurant does not open for another hour, sir,' said the shiny under-manager who to Dalziel's jaundiced eye looked as if he had been anointed with Mansion Polish. 'It is, after all, barely five-thirty.'
'Is that so?' said Dalziel. He stepped close to the under-manager and bared his teeth in a humourless smile. 'In that case, there'll be time for me to take a good look round your kitchens, won't there?'
Despite this inauspicious start the meal turned out to be almost as good as had been promised by the hotel publicity. And afterwards in the bar just to add a little spice to the evening there was a scene.
A tall blonde girl, who had caught Dalziel's attention in the restaurant because she wore a deep plunging dress without showing the slightest evidence that she had breasts, punched one of her two male companions on the nose. It was no mere feminine slap, nor even a piece of robust horse-play, but a whole-hearted punch, starting from behind the girl's right ear, ending with a squelchy thump on the point of the man's nose. It was a good blow for such a skinny fighter and it drove the recipient backwards over his tall bar-stool, setting up an interesting chain reaction along the whole length of the bar.
Dalziel sitting at a table by the door grinned with delight. The girl, who looked nineteen or twenty at the most, now casually picked up her bag and walked away from the bar. Dalziel stood up and opened the door for her.
'Well done, lass,' he said, genially peering down her dress. 'I really enjoyed that.'
'Did you?' she said. 'Let me double the pleasure.'
Dalziel was on his feet and much more solidly built than her first antagonist. Nevertheless the blow drove him backwards on to his table, shattering his glass and spilling the ashtray to the floor.
'Jesus!' he said, gingerly feeling his nose and looking after the girl's disappearing back.
He glowered round the room, defying anyone to be amused by his discomfiture, but most eyes were focused on the attempts to restore order at the bar. The floored young man was bleeding slightly but looked more puzzled than pained. He was in his early twenties, fair-haired, tall, athletically slim, a type Dalziel associated with the three-quarter lines of fashionable rugby teams composed mainly of young men called Bingo and Noddy. His companion was of an age, but shorter and stouter, in fact far too stout for someone so young.
He seemed to be the only person at the bar who had preserved his drink intact and he surveyed the others with a faintly complacent grin.
'Charley,' he said. 'You really ought to buy all these people a drink.'
'You buy them a drink,' said Charley. 'She's your bloody sister.'
Someone came through the door behind Dalziel.
'What seems to be the trouble?' said a voice in his ear.
He turned and looked at a small middle-aged man wearing an old pin- stripe suit of such hideous cut that it could not even be said to have seen better days.
'Trouble?' said Dalziel.
'I was in the restaurant. One of the waiters said something about a fracas.'
'Did he?' said Dalziel. 'I saw nowt.'
He turned and left, pleased for once in his life to have been a sufferer of, rather than from, witness blindness. No one but a sadist or a newspaper reporter would have let a rumour of a fight drag him out of the Lady Hamilton's dining-room and Dalziel had no wish to start his holiday as a comic paragraph in some local paper. Come to think of it, he had pretty little wish to start his holiday at all. It was supposed to do him good, to rid him of the irritability and fatigue which had begun to dominate his working life in the last few months. But it was the time away from work, the time he spent by himself, which he feared most, and all a holiday would do was give him more of that. But it had to be tried, he recognized that. Otherwise ... well, there was no otherwise he cared to contemplate.
Tomorrow he would set off like a good tourist to explore the highways and byways of the Lincolnshire countryside. Peace and quiet away from the mainstream of traffic, and in a fortnight he could return to work revitalized. Perhaps.
Meanwhile, as he had done for many nights now, he set about postponing the moment of switching off his bedroom light until he was on the very brink of sleep. He poured himself a carefully measured dose of scotch and put it on the bedside table. Next, clad in pyjamas suitable in pattern and size for the fitting of three or four deckchairs, he climbed into bed, placed his reading spectacles gingerly on his still throbbing nose and picked up his book. It was Bulwer Lytton's Last Days of Pompeii, which he had stolen from the hotel where he spent his honeymoon and had been reading and re-reading off and on now for thirty years.CHAPTER 2
A Bridge to Nowhere
The countryside was brimming. The rain had continued all night and he had woken several times to hear its monotonous pizzicato on the tiny metal balcony which some ironical builder had positioned outside his unopenable window. It had taken several medicinal malts to get him a couple of hours of dreamless sleep and he had been packed and ready for breakfast by eight o'clock.
He collected his bill at reception just as the under-manager passed without speaking. Dalziel, however, was not a man for childish grudges and he addressed the other cheerfully.
'Listen,' he said. 'Two things I don't do. I don't pay VAT on a service- charge and I don't pay a service-charge on VAT. You get it sorted.'
It took a little time to get it sorted but he was still on his way shortly after nine-thirty.
Orburn was a country town of about seven thousand souls and had been neglected by development and history alike. Nothing earth-shaking had ever happened here nor did it now seem likely that it would. Dalziel, in a conscientious rather than enthusiastic attempt to prepare himself for his touring holiday, had read in a Guide to Lincolnshire of the fine broach spire of the small Early English church in which Ellie and Pascoe had been married, but the thing itself hadn't done much for him. The Guide had found little else to say and the only choice left to Dalziel now was one of direction. The main road (if so it could be called) through the town ran east to west. His car was pointing west so that was the direction he chose. A few miles farther on he hit the north-south trunk road and was faced with another choice. North would take him to Lincoln which he ought to visit. But it was also the direction in which home and work lay and he had the feeling that once he started north he wouldn't stop till the anguished faces of Inspector George Headingley and his colleagues told him he was home.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "An April Shroud"
Copyright © 1975 Estate of Reginald Hill.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fourth in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. The previous book focused on Peter Pascoe and his involvement as a witness rather than a policeman, after finding his friends murdered. This one focuses on Andy Dalziel finding himself in a similar situation. The difference here is that Dalziel finds himself amongst strangers, and it's not entirely clear for some time whether there is a crime at all, and if so what it is.Dalziel is supposed to be going on holiday after attending Pascoe's wedding, but finds himself stranded by a flood, and invites himself to stay with the funeral party who rescue him. The newly widowed Bonnie Fielding has more troubles on her mind than the loss of her husband -- their fledgling Banqueting Hall business needs to be up and running soon, or the business, and the family, will be bankrupt. Dalziel gets entangled in what at first seems like an entertaining diversion, but when more corpses appear, he has unpleasant choices to make.A good read in its own right, but I found it even better when I read it in sequence. This book develops Dalziel as a character, showing him as off-duty as he gets, and telling us something about him as a person as well as a policeman.
Finally seeing some of Dalziel's personal side unfortunately with very little Pascoe in the mix. I found the numerous characters a bit confusing but I was reading multiple books at the same time so I can't put it all on the book. Overall I'm enjoying the series and look forward to further developments.