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Death's Jest-Book (Dalziel and Pascoe Series #20)

Death's Jest-Book (Dalziel and Pascoe Series #20)

3.3 3
by Reginald Hill

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Three times DCI Pascoe has wrongly accused dead-pan joker Franny Roote. This time he's determined to leave no gravestone unturned as he tries to prove that the ex-con and aspiring academic is mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Meanwhile, Edgar Wield rides to the rescue of a child in danger, only to find he has a rent-boy with a priceless secret under his wing. DC


Three times DCI Pascoe has wrongly accused dead-pan joker Franny Roote. This time he's determined to leave no gravestone unturned as he tries to prove that the ex-con and aspiring academic is mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Meanwhile, Edgar Wield rides to the rescue of a child in danger, only to find he has a rent-boy with a priceless secret under his wing. DC Bowler is looking forward to a blissful New Year with the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, her dreams are filled with a horror too terrible to tell . . .

And over all this activity broods the huge form of DS Andy Dalziel. As trouble builds, the Fat Man discovers (as have many deities before him) that omniscience can be more trouble than it's worth and that sometimes all omnipotence means is that you can have any colour you want, as long as it's black.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Award-winning author Reginald Hill has created a novel full of danger, suspense, and a driving sense of the inexorable that pulls the reader along at a breakneck pace.... Sometimes a police officer becomes obsessed with a criminal -- and that, it seems, is what has happened to Yorkshire cop Peter Pascoe. Three times he's been certain that ex-con Franny Roote was guilty -- only to have the clever career criminal beat the rap. Unfortunately, obsessions can work both ways. Roote has started to send Pascoe taunting letters, dropping hints that tie him to murder, arson, and other crimes, challenging Pascoe to another battle of wits. Pascoe is a fine cop, but his quarry is a highly intelligent man who took full advantage of his time in prison to earn an advanced degree. To make matters worse, Roote is now using that degree to profit from a tragic series of events that seems designed to propel him to a top-flight academic career, riding on the coattails of the 19th-century man of letters who wrote the original Death's Jest-Book. But Roote's agenda goes far beyond academic achievements and driving Pascoe around the bend: Roote's mentor was the last victim of the serial killer known as the Wordman. Although the police officially solved that case, Roote is sure the real killer is still at large, and he's determined to force Pascoe into proving it. As it turns out, he's absolutely right. As Roote plots and Pascoe counterplots, a deranged killer is pulling strings that will make questions of life and death anything but academic. Sue Stone
The New York Times
Roote's epistolary style is as brilliant as it is bizarre, and his creepy letters—on such eclectic matters as the revenge theme in Jacobean tragedy and the smartest way to avoid being raped in prison or in the groves of academe—are a joy to read.—Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
Diamond Dagger winner Hill ties up some loose ends from his previous Dalziel/Pascoe book, Dialogues of the Dead (2002), in this gritty, witty psychological suspense novel, whose title evokes a work by 19th-century poet and dramatist Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Rising academic Franny Roote, in spite of time spent in jail for murder and as a suspect in three other crimes, seems on his way to assured literary fame, and he's been writing DCI Peter Pascoe to share the glad tidings. Roote, in his affectionate, eloquent missives, assures Pascoe that he doesn't hold a grudge-is even, perhaps, grateful-for the part Pascoe played in his incarceration, which ultimately led to his fulfilling new life. For Pascoe's part, however, the letters are filled with menace and mockery: every reference to Pascoe's wife and daughter, every suspicious circumstance recounted, convinces him that Roote is still a foul crook with vendetta on his agenda. Meanwhile, the burgeoning passion between Rye Pomona and DC "Hat" Bowler, following the grisly end of Dickie Dee, may unsettle readers of Dialogues of the Dead. With so many characters and circumstances that may not be as they appear, this is more of a "who-might-do-what" than a "whodunit." The simultaneous release of the mass market edition of Dialogues of the Dead is fortunate, as the uninitiated would be well advised to read it first. Those who do will want to grab the next volume immediately. (On sale Sept. 26) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Once again, Hill takes the classic British mystery to new levels of psychological suspense, character development, and literary mastery in his signature series. The personal and professional intertwine for Yorkshire Detective Supervisor Andy Dalziel, "the knee in the balls"; Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe, "the shoulder to cry on"; and their colleagues. Pascoe is obsessed by letters-interspersed throughout the book-from ex-con-turned-academic Franny Roote; Detective Constable Hat Bowler falls in love with librarian Rye Pomona, who's linked beyond his imagination to the Wordman serial killings (in Dialogues of the Dead); and Detective Sergeant Edward Wiehl becomes father figure to a rent boy who feeds him information. Meanwhile, the witness who saw a crime boss's son run down a young woman is in jeopardy, and a priceless collection of ancient Roman coins and artifacts is targeted for theft-and Hill wraps it all up neatly. The title, which is also that of a play written by 19th-century poet and dramatist Thomas Beddoes (coming out in a new edition this month), reflects the theme of meeting death, a theme that resonates throughout this superlative mystery.-Michele Leber, formerly with Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Hill’s novels are really dances to the music of time, his heroes and villains interconnecting, their stories entwining.” — Ian Rankin

“An increasingly lyrical and always humorous writer. . . Hill is blessed with a spontaneous storytelling gift.” — Frances Fyfield

“Reginald Hill is probably the best living male crime writer in the English-speaking world.” — Andrew Taylor, The Independent

“He just keeps getting better and better. . . . Hill, a true master, never fails to shock and surprise.” — Ian Rankin, Scotland on Sunday

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Dalziel and Pascoe Series , #20
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Death's Jest-Book

Imagined Scenes


Among Other Things:

The Quest for Thomas Lovell Beddoes

by Sam Johnson MA, PhD (first draft)

Clifton, Glos. June 1808

'That's it, man. Hold her head, hold her head. For God's sake, you behind, get your shoulder into it. Come, girl. Come, girl.'

The shouter of these instructions, a burly man of about fifty years with a close-cropped head and a face made to command, stands halfway up a broad sweeping staircase. A few stairs below him a rustic, his naturally ruddy complexion even more deeply incarnadined by exertion, is leaning backwards like the anchor in a tug-o'-war, pulling with all his strength on a rope whose lower end is tied round the neck of a large brown cow.

Behind the beast a nervous-looking footman is making encouraging fluttering gestures with his hands. From the marble-floored hallway below a housekeeper and butler watch with massive disapproval, while over the balustrade of the landing lean a pair of housemaids, arms full of sheets, all discipline forgotten, their faces bright with delight at this rare entertainment, and especially at the discom fiture of the footman.

Between them kneels a solemn-faced little boy, his hands gripping the gilded wrought iron rails, who observes the scene with keen but unsurprised gaze.

'Push, man, push, it can't bite you!' roars the burly man.

The footman, used to obey and perhaps aware of the watching maids, takes a step forward and leans with one hand on each of the cow's haunches.

As if stimulated by the pressure, the beast raises its tail and evacuates its bowels. Caught full in the chest by the noxious jet, the footman tumbles backwards, the maids squeal, the little boy smiles to see such fun, and the cow as if propelled by the exuberance of its own extravasation bounds up the remaining stairs at such a pace that both the rustic and the burly man are hard put to retreat safely to the landing.

Below, the butler and the housekeeper check that the bemired footman is unhurt. Then the woman hastens up the stairs, her face dark with indignation, which the maids observing, they beat a hasty retreat.

'Dr Beddoes!' she cries. 'This is beyond toleration!'

'Come now, Mrs Jones,' says the burly man. 'Is not your mistress's health worth a little labour with brush and pan? Lead her on, George.'

The rustic begins to lead the now completely cowed cow along the landing towards a half-open bedroom door. The man follows, with the small boy a step behind.

Mrs Jones, the housekeeper, finding no answer to the doctor's reproof, changes her line of attack.

'A sick room is certainly no place for a child,' she proclaims. 'What would his mother say?'

'His mother, ma'am, being a woman of good sense and aware of her duty, would say that his father knows best,' observes the doctor sardonically. 'A child's eye sees the simple facts of things. It is old wives' fancies that give them the tincture of horror. My boy has already looked unmoved on sights which have sent many a strapping medical student tumbling into the runnel. 'Twill stand him in good stead if he chooses to follow his father's example. Come, Tom.'

So saying, he takes the boy by the hand and, passing in front of the cow and its keeper, he pushes open the bedroom door.

This is a large room in the modern airy style, but rendered dark by heavily draped windows and illumined only by a single taper whose glim picks out the features of a figure lying in a huge square bed. It is a woman, old, sunken cheeked, eyes closed, pale as candle wax, and showing no sign of life. By the bedside kneels a thin black-clothed man who looks up as the door opens and slowly rises.

'You're too late, Beddoes,'he says. 'She is gone to her maker.'

'That's your professional opinion, is it, Padre?' says the doctor. 'Well, let's see.'

He goes to the window and pulls aside the drapes, letting in the full beam of a summer sun. In its light he stands looking down at the old woman, with his hand resting lightly on her neck.

Then he turns and calls, 'George, don't hang back, man. Lead her in.'

The rustic advances with the cow.

The parson cries, 'Nay, Beddoes, this is unseemly. This is not well done! She is at peace, she is with the angels.'

The doctor ignores him. Helped by the rustic and observed with wide unblinking eyes by his son, he manoeuvres the cow's head over the still figure in the bed. Then he punches the beast lightly in the stomach so that it opens its jaws and exhales a great gust of grassy breath directly into the woman's face. Once, twice, three times he does this, and on the third occasion the cow's long wet tongue licks lightly over the pallid features.

The woman opens her eyes.

Perhaps she expects to see angels, or Jesus, or even the ineffable glory of the Godhead itself.

Instead what her dim vision discovers is a gaping maw beneath broad flaring nostrils, all topped by a pair of sharp pointed horns.

She shrieks and sits bolt upright.

The cow retreats, the doctor puts a supporting arm round the woman's shoulders.

'Welcome back, my lady. Will you take a little nourishment?'

Her gaze clearing and the agitation fading from her features, she nods feebly and the doctor eases her back on to her pillows.

'Take Betsy out, George,'says Beddoes.'Her work is done.'

And to his son he says, 'You see how it is, young Tom. The parson here preaches miracles. We lesser men have to practise them. Mrs Jones, a little nourishing broth for your mistress, if you please.'

Death's Jest-Book. Copyright © by Reginald Hill. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Reginald Hill has been widely published in England, Canada, and the United States, and has been justly compared with P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. He received Britain’s most esteemed mystery award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger, as well as the Golden Dagger for his Dalziel-Pascoe series. Reginald Hill lives with his wife in Cumbria, England.

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Death's Jest-Book 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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