HarperCollins|2011|326 pages|Paperback|my own copy| 3*
An April Shroud is Reginald Hill’s fourth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in 1975, in which Dalziel is on holiday and Pascoe is on his honeymoon.
From the back cover:
Inspector Pascoe may take holidays but Death never does – and neither, it seems, does Superintendent Dalziel. A watery accident on a solitary country holiday leads to the Fat Man drying off in Lake House, a nearby mansion well past its prime.
The same cannot be said for its owner, the fulsome Mrs Fielding. She has only recently buried her husband, but seems more concerned with her future. Dalziel’s curiosity is aroused – purely professionally of course – and by the time Pascoe’s honeymoon is over, there have been several more deaths and Dalziel might have compromised himself beyond redemption …
Whereas in the previous book, Ruling Passion Dalziel’s character was more of a caricature, on An April Shroud Hill develops his character more fully, in fact I think the book is primarily a superb character study of Dalziel. He is rude, coarse and insensitive, but his capacity for getting to the bottom of a mystery is shown to be immense.
Although on holiday he cannot help but ferret out what really happened to Conrad Fielding, when he meets the Fielding family on their way back home after Conrad’s funeral. He was rescued by them when his journey south was brought to an abrupt end by floods. The police had decided that Conrad’s death had been an accident – he had fallen off a ladder onto the drill he had been using and it had pierced his heart. Mrs Fielding invites Dalziel to stay at their home, Lake House, where it soon becomes apparent to him that the family have plenty of secrets they would rather he didn’t discover.
I couldn’t easily distinguish who was who in the family, except to realise that they were all rather odd. The plot seemed over complicated and in parts I thought I was reading a farce as more bodies turned up dead. I had little idea who was guilty and the identity of the culprits took me by surprise. Dalziel’s ‘interlude’ with the widow, Bonny Fielding, was entertaining as well as revealing about Dalziel’s personal life – he is sensitive and vulnerable beneath his boorish exterior.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, although for me it was far from Hill’s best Dalziel and Pascoe book and I’m looking forward to reading book 5, A Pinch of Snuff, as I know that the later books are much better. Reginald Hill wrote 24 Dalziel and Pascoe novels. I’ve read some of them and currently I’m reading my way through the rest.
These are the Dalziel and Pascoe books I’ve read so far:
1. A Clubbable Woman (1970)
2. An Advancement of Learning (1971)
3. Ruling Passion (1973)
4. An April Shroud (1975)
8. Exit Lines (1984)
11. Bones and Silence (1990)
14. Pictures of Perfection (1993) – read, no post
17.On Beulah Height (1998)
20. Death’s Jest Book (2002)
21. The Death of Dalziel (2007)