Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reading the Detectives

I am a big fan of the detective fiction genre. I could always tell when I was stressed as a youth, because I'd wander to the library and head back with armfuls of Agatha Christie and various other detective writers. I love a great many and, recently, in Claire De Witt and the City of the Dead have read one of my favourite new voices in years; I am genuinely excited about the prospect of future books in this series. I'm also about to read another new voice (well, new to me) in Jussi Adler-Olsen. Am hopeful this is not yet another male detective with a drinking problem, a cool record collection and problems with his spouse/ladies yet absolutely irresistible to the ladies. Not that I didn't love the early Rebus/Wallander, but there is something a little tiring about those, which is why Claire De Witt struck me as a nice alternative (although **SPOILER ALERT** there are substance abuse issues. sigh). I also very much enjoyed the Tana French novels for their effed up but at least different narrators.

Anyway, I digress. The spur for this post is the death of my all time favourite detective fiction writer, Reginald Hill. His books I have loved more than any others. They span an extraordinary number of books, subjects, ingenious plots - animal rights activism, flooded villages, Passchendaele, rugby clubs, amateur dramatics, South American guerrillas.

They also feature functional human beings. One of the best things about the Dalziel & Pascoe books is the marriage between Ellie and Peter; the reader follows them falling in love and growing into a marriage that has its issues but, basically works. It has the normal stresses and strains (in a way that portraits of idealized "happy marriages" often don't work - yes, Ian McEwan, I'm looking at you, and am not the only one, apparently - because they're portrayed as "perfect" rather than happy - a different thing).

The relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe is funny, affectionate, tense; everything a yin and yang, two-member team should be. Pascoe underestimates Dalziel's ability to read people, situations, his intelligence; Dalziel underestimates Pascoe's grit and determination. It works beautifully. I'm tempted to re-read them - I had them all in one place, in sequential order, before we moved to the US. Maybe it's now time to regather them and start again. Once I've got rid of the mountain of library books and Christmas books that are piled around the house.

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