An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill: Mini Review

An Advancement of learning

An Advancement of Learning is Reginald Hill’s second Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in 1971. It’s much better than the first one, A Clubbable Woman and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s set in a college, Holm Coultram College, where Dalziel and Pascoe investigate the discovery of a body found as an eight foot high bronze statue of Miss Girling, a former head of the College in the grounds is being moved. As the base of the statue is lifted earth falls away together with a shin bone followed by part of a rib cage and then a skull, still with a mop of dark red hair attached. Miss Girling had red hair – but she had died in an avalanche in Austria – so whose body was buried under the statue?

The plot is by no means straight forward and for most of the book continued to puzzle me, even though I thought the ending was rather weak. But the strength of this book is in the writing and the characterisation. It is a character-driven murder mystery, with a cast of characters including Girling, Halfdane, Fallowfield, Cockshut, and Disney, known as ‘Walt’, of course and I had no difficulty in keeping who was who clearly in my mind. It’s interesting to see the early relationship between Dalziel, shown as a rude, boorish character, and Pascoe, the university educated young DS. Dalziel is very much out of his comfort zone with the academic staff and looks to Pascoe to understand how the college operates, whilst mocking him. Pascoe renews his relationship with Ellie Soper, an ex-girlfriend from his university days – a feisty young woman, but a minor character in this book. 

Written in 1971 it is very much a book of its time. I read it quickly, as the two detectives uncover plenty of disagreements and power struggles in both the staff and student bodies – from rivalries to revelries on the beach, and more dead bodies turn up before the mystery is solved.

And reading it has made me keen to get on the next book in the series, Ruling Passion, which I’ve started almost straight away! I’ve been reading this series totally out of order, beginning with some of the later books – much more detailed and complex than the first books.

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780007313037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007313037
  • Source: I bought it
  • My Rating: 4.5*

Reading challenges: Mount TBR, Calendar of Crime, 20 Books of Summer

First Chapter First Paragraph: An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill, one of the books I’m currently reading.

An Advancement of Learning (Dalziel & Pascoe, Book 2)

There had been a great deal of snow that December followed by hard frost. A few days before Christmas a thaw set in, temperatures rose steeply, the snow became slush. The sun greedily sucked up the moisture until it saturated the air and impinged on all the senses.

Blurb (Amazon)

All is not well at Holm Coultram College: lecturers having affairs with students, witches’ sabbaths, a body buried under a statue.

Detective Superintendent Dalziel, despite his cynical view of academics, doesn’t feel murder fits in here – let alone a rash of killings. But when he and DS Pascoe are sent to investigate a disinterred corpse at Holm Coultram College, that’s exactly what they find…

~~~

 This is the second Dalziel and Pascoe book. I’ve read some of the later books in the series and am now going back to the early ones that I haven’t yet read.  I first came across Dalziel and Pascoe via the TV adaptations and I think I remember watching the TV version of this one several years ago. Maybe it’s because I saw the TV versions before I read the books that I enjoy both so much – Warren Clark as Dalziel was so right in the role.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?