On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill

I’ve been doing quite well with reading books for my 10 Books of Summer Challenge – but not so well at writing reviews of them.

On Beulah Height (Dalziel & Pascoe, #17)

So here is a quick review of the first of my 10 Books. It’s also one of my TBRs, a book I’ve owned for a couple of years:

I loved On Beulah Height is Reginald Hill’s 17th Dalziel and Pascoe novel. He wrote 25 in this series and although it would probably make sense to get a picture of their development I’ve been reading them out of order. It doesn’t seem to matter much, but in this one there are a few references to something that had happened in an earlier case (told in The Wood Beyond) that had affected Pascoe personally. It had  filled him with anger and it is still affecting him, whilst investigating this case. But this book can easily be read as a standalone novel.

It is not just a crime fiction novel, it is also a book that raises many issues about parenthood, the relationship between families and their children and the devastation and anguish of parents and a community at the loss of a child.

I’d really like to re-read it some time as it is a complex book, that begins with a transcript written by Betsy Allgood, then aged seven, telling what had happened in the little village of Dendale in Yorkshire before the valley was flooded to provide a reservoir. That summer three little girls had gone missing. No bodies were ever found, and the best suspect, a strange lad named Benny Lightfoot, was held for a time, then released. Benny then disappeared from the area

Fifteen years later another little girl, Lorraine, also aged seven went out for a walk one morning with her dog before her parents got up and didn’t return home, reviving memories of the missing children from fifteen years earlier. It was a case that has haunted Dalziel – and the fears increase when a message appeared, sprayed on the walls: BENNY’S  BACK. It’s been a hot, dry summer and the buildings beneath the reservoir are gradually becoming visible and tensions are rising as memories of the missing children increase the fears for Lorraine’s safety.

This book is tightly plotted with many twists that made me change my mind so many times I gave up trying to work out who the murderer was and just read for the pleasure of reading. Hill’s descriptive writing is rich and full of imagery. The main characters are fully rounded people and the supporting cast are believable personalities, often described with wry humour.

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (30 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007313179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007313174
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My rating: 5*

11 thoughts on “On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill”

  1. This sounds like an excellent read! I keep meaning to check my library for books by RH to see what they’ve got. Must jot it down in my library notebook. Ruth Rendell’s another one I keep forgetting. Mind like a sieve…

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    1. There are so many books I want to read, so it’s not surprising that some slip through the net – or the sieve in the mind! I love Hill’s books and most of Ruth Rendell’s too that I’ve read – maybe the later books not so much. I hope you find some of their books.

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  2. I think that’s one of the great things about Hill, Margaret. He created complex plots and rich characters, so that you want to just read the story for the pleasure of reading it. And this one does explore a lot. I’m not surprised you want to go back and ‘unfold’ it some more.

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  3. This is actually the only book in the series that I’ve read. We did it a few years ago in the mystery group and paired it with Peter Robinson’s IN A DRY SEASON. That book is also about a hot summer and a reservoir and crimes that come to light. I keep thinking that I’ll read more in both authors’ series, but then select something else. Like Cath, I also keep thinking I’ll read more of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. Sigh. If I could only read at about 3 times the speed – ha!

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    1. Kay, I’ve also been reading Peter Robinson’s books totally out of order and haven’t read In a Dry Season. But now I have all of his books on Kindle so I’m going back and filling in the gaps. There are almost too many authors whose books I want to read! I wish I could read more quickly too – 🙂

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  4. I’ve not read that many books by Hill but have enjoyed what I have managed to find on audio. the characterisation is the thing that sticks out for me. Like with most crime fiction I never remembr the plot from one book to the next

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    1. I rarely remember the plots either, which is one reason I decided to write my blog, but it doesn’t help in remembering who the murderers are – I suppose I could keep a private list of books and the culprits just for my own information – or write spoiler posts that people could read if they wanted to …

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  5. I love the entire Dalziel and Pascoe series, but On Beulah Height is in Hill’s top five for me, for all the reasons you cite in your review. He’s such beautiful writer and the way he is able to juggle multiple storylines and points of view is amazing. I’ve read many of his books more than once, and enjoy listening to them in audiobook format as well.

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  6. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. I have no doubt I’ve told you this a million times already, but it’s my favourite crime fiction novel of all time, and tends to be the standard I judge others by. I really feel it stands up there with the best of literary fiction – his writing is at its best in it, I think.

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