"A complex and deeply satisfying tale...one part traditional English whodunit and one part shadowy corporate thriller....Throughout, Pascoe and Dalziel are their usual witty, intelligent selves; they continue to be two of the more interesting police detectives in modern crime fiction....Hill has provided readers with a superior example of the mystery form--one with a delicious cold sting in the final page." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Prominent businessman Pal Maciver locked himself in his study and shot himself. It's an open-and-shut case, as far as Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel is concerned. Except...Maciver's father died in an almost identical manner ten years earlier, and "Fat Andy" was the investigating officer. Pal's strange and strained relationship with his beautiful, enigmatic stepmother, Kay Kafka, also raises warning flags. And the family's shady corporate dealings carry two apparent acts of self-slaughter far beyond the borders of Yorkshire, causing policeman Peter Pascoe to question his superior's reticence...and his motives.
About the Author
Reginald Hill is a native of Cumbria and a former resident of Yorkshire, the setting for his novels featuring Superintendent Dalziel and DCI Pascoe. Their appearances have won him numerous awards, including a CWA Gold Dagger and the Car-tier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award. The Dalziel and Pascoe stories have also been adapted into a hugely popular BBC TV series.
Read an Excerpt
1 -- By the Waters of Babylon
The war had been over for three weeks. Eventually the process of reconstruction would begin, but for the time being the ruins of the plant remained as they had been twenty-four hours after the missiles struck. By then the survivors had been hospitalized and the accessible dead removed. The smell of death rising from the inaccessible soon became intolerable but it didn't last long as the heat of the approaching summer accelerated decay and nature's cleansers, the flies and small rodents, went about their work.
Dust settled, sun and wind airbrushed the exposed rawness of cracked concrete till it was hardly distinguishable from the baked earth surrounding it, and a traveller in this antique land might have been forgiven for thinking that these relicts were as ancient as those of the great city of Babylon only a few miles away.
Finally, with the smells reduced to a bearable level and the dogs picking over the ruins showing no signs of turning even mangier than usual, some bold spirits living in the vicinity began to make their own exploratory forays.
The new scavengers found a degree of devastation so extensive that even the most technically minded of them couldn't work out the possible function of the plant's wrecked machinery. They gathered up whatever might be sellable or tradable or adaptable to some domestic purpose and left.
But not all of them. Khalid Kassem, at thirteen counting himself a man and certainly imbued with a sense of adventure and ambition which was adult in its scope, hung back when his father and brothers departed. He was small for his age and slightly built, factors usuallymilitating against his efforts to be taken seriously. In this case, however, he felt they could work to his advantage. He'd noticed a crack in a collapsed wall which he felt he might be able to squeeze through. Earlier while scavenging in the ruins of an office building he had come across a small torch, its bulb miraculously unbroken and its battery retaining enough juice to produce a faint beam. Instead of flaunting his find, he had concealed it, and when he spotted the crack and shone the light through it to reveal a chamber within, he began to feel divinely encouraged in his enterprise.
It was a tight squeeze even for one of his build, but eventually he got through and found himself in what looked to have been a basement storage area. There was blast damage here as there was everywhere and much of the ceiling had been shattered when the floors above had come crashing down, but no actual explosion seemed to have occurred in this space. Among the debris lay a scatter of metal crates, some intact, one or two broken open to reveal cuboids of some kind of lightweight foam cladding. Where this had split, Khalid's faint beam of light glanced back off dully gleaming machines. He broke some of the cladding away to get a better look and discovered the machine was further wrapped in a close-clinging transparent plastic sheet. Recently on a visit to relatives in Baghdad, he had seen a refrigerator stacked with packets of food wrapped like this. It was explained to him that all the air had been sucked out so that as long as the package remained unopened the food inside would remain fresh. These machines too, he guessed, were being kept fresh. It did not surprise him. Metal he knew was capable of decay, and machinery was, in his limited experience, even harder to keep in good condition than livestock.
There was unfortunately no way to profit from his discovery. Even if it had been possible to recover one of these machines, what would he and his family do with it?
He turned to go, and the faint beam of his torch touched a crate rather smaller than the rest. A long metal cylinder had fallen across it, splitting it completely open, like a knife slicing a melon. It was the shape of its contents that caught his eye. Obscured by the cylinder resting on the broken crate, this lacked the angularity of the vacuum-packed machines. It was more like some kind of cocoon.
He put his torch down and, by using both hands and all his slight body weight, he managed to roll the cylinder to one side. It hit the floor with a crash that raised enough dust to set him coughing.
When he recovered, he picked up his torch and directed the ever fainter beam downward, praying it might reveal some treasure he could bear back proudly to his family.
The light glanced back from a pair of staring eyes.
He screamed in terror and dropped the torch, which went out.
That might have been the end for Khalid, but Allah is merciful and bountiful and permitted two of his miracles together.
The first was that as his scream died away (for want of breath not want of terror) he heard a voice calling his name.
"Khalid, where the hell are you? Come on, or you're in big trouble."
It was his favourite brother, Ahmed.
The second miracle was that another light came on in the storeroom to replace his broken torch. This light was red and intermittent. In the brightness of its flashes he looked again at the vacuum-packed cocoon.
It was a woman in there. She was young and black and beautiful. And of course she was dead.
His brother shouted his name again, sounding both anxious and angry.
"I'm all right," he called back impatiently, his fear fading with Ahmed's proximity and of course the light.
Which came from . . . where?
He checked and his fear came back with advantages.
The light was coming from the end of the metal cylinder he had so casually sent crashing to the floor. There were Western letters on the metal which made no sense to him. But one thing he did recognize: the emblem of the great shaitan who was the nation's bitterest foe.
Now he knew what had come crashing through the roof but had not exploded.
He scrambled towards the fissure through which he'd entered. It seemed to have constricted even further, or fear was making him fat, and for a moment he thought he was caught fast. He had one arm through and was desperately trying to get a purchase on the ruined outer wall when his hand was grasped tight and next moment he was being dragged painfully through the gap into Ahmed's arms.
His brother opened his mouth to remonstrate with him, saw the look on his face and needed no further persuasion to obey when Khalid screamed. "Run!"