Underworld by Reginald Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Deadheads is the 10th Dalziel and Pascoe novel first published in 1988, set in the small mining town of Burrthorpe (a fictional town) in Yorkshire. The setting is excellent and Hill paints a compelling account of the mining community and gives a convincing insight into the period a few years after the Miners’ Strike of 1984. The majority of the book is about the miners, their families, their hatred of the bosses, and their distrust and dislike of the police.

There are two mysteries facing Dalziel and Pascoe. One is current and the other is a case that had appeared to have been resolved several years earlier, when Tracy Pedley, a young girl disappeared. Her body was never discovered and some of the residents believed that Billy Farr, who was the last person to see her alive, was responsible for her death. But then Donald Pickford committed suicide leaving a letter confessing to killing several young girls in the area and although he hadn’t mentioned Tracy by name, she was counted as a probable victim. Even so, some people still thought Billy was guilty and their suspicions were confirmed when later on it appeared that he committed suicide when he fell to his death in an abandoned mineshaft.

Matters are brought to boiling point when the local newspaper serialises the memoirs of ex-Deputy Chief Constable Neville Whatmough, who had been in charge of the Pickford case. This incenses Colin Farr, Billy’s son. And then another man is found dead in the mine …

Dalziel has just a minor role as Pascoe leads the investigation. Ellie, Pascoe’s wife, also plays a major role. Her involvement comes about when she tutors some of the miners as part of the union-sponsored day release courses and meets Colin Farr, Billy’s son. He is an angry young man and Ellie is attracted both to his intelligence and his physical masculinity, despite the strength of her feminist views. She really is an irritating character, an angry young woman and for most of the book it looked as though the Pascoes’ marriage was about to come to an end. It’s left to Dalziel to bring a touch of humour to the book and his down to earth approach to the miners gets more results than Pascoe’s middle class attempts to understand them.

I thoroughly enjoyed Underworld.


The title appears as ‘Under World‘ in some editions and as ‘Underworld‘ on others. On the front cover of the paperback I read it is ‘Under World‘ but on the title page it is one word -‘Underworld‘. The Underworld or Hades in ancient Greek and Roman Mythology was where the souls of the dead resided. Hill divides Underworld into three parts and begins each part with verses from Dante’s The Divine Comedy, thus equating the mine with hell.