5 August 2009

Review: MIDNIGHT FUGUE, Reginald Hill

HarperCollins Publishers, 2009, ISBN 978-0-00-725271-8, 362 pages.

Andy Dalziel, recently returned to work after an extensive convalescence, wakes up late. In a panic that he will be late for the CID's monthly case review meeting, he dresses quickly, grabs his car keys and heads out the door. As he is leaving he hears his answer machine recording an incoming message from a DI he hasn't heard from for nearly a decade. In his haste to drive away he doesn't notice that he is being followed by another car. And behind that car is another.

By the time Dalziel gets into the centre of town he has realised that it is not Monday after all, that it is probably Sunday. He goes into the cathedral to confirm his suspicions, and that is when Gina Wolfe, wife of a DI who disappeared without trace nearly seven years earlier approaches him. Neither of them notice Vince Delay watching them.

Gina Wolfe has good reason for thinking her husband Alex may not be dead after all. At the time of his disappearance he was under investigation for corruption, taking handouts from criminal manipulator Goldie Gidman. But now someone has sent her a newspaper clipping which clearly shows her husband in the background crowd watching a minor Royal visiting the town.

Taking Gina's investigation on, unofficially at first, is very important to Fat Andy who is desperate to prove that he is not only fit and well, but still at the height of his powers. In the period since he was blown up in DEATH OF DALZIEL and convalesced in A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, Peter Pascoe has led the team, and proved pretty well he can manage without Dalziel. Followers of the Dalziel and Pascoe series have been waiting to see if Fat Andy is able to come back to work, or whether he will stand down and hand over to Pascoe. This is #24 in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. The series began nearly 40 years ago with A CLUBBABLE WOMAN in 1970. Check the full list at Fantastic Fiction.

The structure of MIDNIGHT FUGUE is interesting to say the least. As we have come to expect, Hill plays little games with his readers. First of all there is the fact the novel is divided up into five parts. Each part contains a line of music, each with a direction about how the music is to be played. Secondly, at the beginning of each section is a passage of two or three pages in italics, a "voice from without".
Finally Hill has sliced and diced the time frame within which the action takes place. The characters act independently within time frames that clearly overlap with each other. The reader is told with each new chapter what the precise time frame is. I suppose Hill could have left the reader to assume that the time frames overlap, but this structure seems to give the novel a precise timeline.

I got a little bit tired of the slice & dice effect to tell the truth, although I found it useful at the beginning. There were also plenty of clues related to the Alex Wolfe case, and about 50 pages from the end I thought I had it all sussed out. That was before Hill introduced the final element of the fugue.

I don't think MIDNIGHT FUGUE is Reginald Hill's best book. I haven't given it 5 like I did THE WOOD BEYOND, DEATH OF DALZIEL and A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, but it is cleverly written, and an excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

Other reviews to check
You might like also to check At Home with Reginald Hill on Mystery Fanfare.

Browse inside MIDNIGHT FUGUE. - read the first 74 pages online.


Gavin said...

I have got to start reading Reginald Hill. Do I need to start with the beginning of the Dalziel and Pascoe series?

Kerrie said...

It is a long series to start at the beginning of Gavin. Perhaps read DEATH OF DALZIEL, and then MIDNIGHT GUGUE

Table Talk said...

It wasn't my favourite Hill either, but I did think he managed this time constraints that he set himself,very well. There are a number of books around at the moment that take place within a single day and it isn't as easy to achieve momentum within those limits as it might seem.

Elaine said...

I started the series late and the first one that caught my attention was Death's Jest Book, which was simply marvellously intricate and with such a depth of language that I had to keep a dictionary by me! Then read them in order after that one.

I went back and read the earlier stories once I had tuned into Dalziel and Pascoe but found them not half as good as his later ones, much more police procedural and Dalziel even more obnoxious in these. By the time we are up to date the relationship between the two is much more assured.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin