Deadheads is the 7th Dalziel and Pascoe novel first published in 1983 and by then Reginald Hill was really getting into his stride and showing his versatility as this book is not a bit like his earlier books. There are deaths, of course, but are they murders? Each one could just as easily be from natural causes or accidents. You think you know from the first chapter who the culprit could be, but I wasn’t really sure – and even by the end I was still wondering if I was right. The police investigation is run mainly by Pascoe and to a certain extent by his wife, Ellie, whilst Dalziel is occupied with other matters, only involved as the mystery draws towards its end.
Patrick Aldermann inherits the splendid Rosemount House and gardens on the death of his aunt, and there he is able to indulge his horticultural passions without restraint.
When his boss, Dick Elgood, suggests that Aldermann is a murderer, then retracts the accusation, Peter Pascoe’s detecting instincts are aroused. How did an underachieving accountant make his way to the top of the company so quickly? And why do so many of his colleagues keep dropping dead?
Meanwhile, when not fielding politically incorrect insults from Superintendent Dalziel, Police Cadet Singh—Mid-Yorkshire’s first Asian copper—has dug up some very interesting information about Aldermann’s beautiful wife, Daphne, who’s now firm friends with one Ellie Pascoe…
It’s important to read the first chapter of Deadheads by Reginald Hill very carefully. At first I didn’t, but as I read on I began to think I’d misread it, so I went back to it – and then I understood its significance. It’s a short chapter that sets the theme for the book. Each chapter is named after a particular rose followed by a description of that rose and the first one is called Mischief, a hybrid tea, in which old Mrs Florence Aldermann instructs her great nephew, eleven year old Patrick, how to deadhead roses and explains why it is necessary.
The blurb outlines the plot and to write much more would, I think, mean I’d be giving away too many spoilers. I found the whole book fascinating, written with humour and social commentary on the issues of racism, homosexualty, feminism and marital infidelity. The plot is well executed and Hill’s descriptive writing is, as usual superb, both in terms of the setting and the development of the characters. And I especially liked the ambiguity of the plot and the circularity of the book – ending as it began with Patrick in his rose garden, pruning roses.
4 thoughts on “Deadheads by Reginald Hill”
This is definitely one of Hill’s better ones, isn’t, Margaret? Besides the plot (which I agree is well-executed), I also like the way Hill shows Pascoe off to good effect. I don’t think he ever intended for Pascoe to be ‘just a sidekick,’ but I do like the novels where we see what Pascoe can do, if that makes sense.
I’m in the middle of re-reading this one just now and agree he’s really finding his form by this stage in the series. I always liked that he could address social issues of the time without coming over as heavy-handed.
You’re so right about Hill getting better in that middle period. I’m not certain that I’ve ever actually read this, but it was definitely one of the better dramatisations in the series that they made of his books.
This was my favorite book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. I want to go back and reread it even though I have only read through Recalled to Life in the series. Someday I will finish the series.
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