A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill

A Pinch of Snuff

HarperCollins|2003|362 pages|Paperback|my own copy|4* 

A Pinch of Snuff is Reginald Hill’s fifth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in 1978. It was televised in 1994 by Yorkshire Television, two years before the BBC series began. The characters of Dalziel and Pascoe were played by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, with Christopher Fairbank as Sergeant Edgar Wield. It was not a success and Reginald Hill was said to have been unhappy with the series. Subsequently the Dalziel and Pascoe books were adapted for BBC television from 1996 to 2007 with the actors Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the lead roles.

I finished reading A Pinch of Snuff just before Christmas and didn’t have time to review it then, so these are just a few notes of what I thought about it. It is better than the earlier books, almost as good as the later books and I enjoyed it very much. It begins as Jack Shorter, Pascoe’s dentist, tells him that he thinks that in one of the blue movies shown at the Calliope Club, an actress wasn’t acting but that she really was beaten up and that her teeth were actually broken. However, when Pascoe begins to investigate his dentist’s allegations it seems that the dentist’s fears were unfounded as the actress in question assures Pascoe that she was acting and certainly wasn’t hurt. But then the cinema is wrecked and its owner killed. Shorter, meanwhile, is accused of molesting an underage patient and is allegedly responsible for getting her pregnant.

All in all, this is a complicated book involving child abuse, pornography, violence towards women and snuff films. It starts slowly, but as the various twists and turns crop up the pace quickens. The events are shown through Pascoe’s eyes and we see his relationships with Dalziel and Sergeant Wield develop.  Elly, Pascoe’s wife, still doesn’t get on with Dalziel, and her feminism comes to the fore in her antagonism against him. 

The 6th book in the series is A Killing Kindness and I shall be reading that very soon.

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)

2 thoughts on “A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill

  1. I agree with you, Margaret, that this series got better over time. And this is a fine entry into it, in my opinion, so it’s good to hear you enjoyed it, too. I’ve always liked the way Hill was able to weave sub-plots and story arcs through his novels without distracting from the main plot. That takes talent.

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