Deadheads

Deadheads - Reginald Hill [These notes were made in 1988, and reflect my first encounter with Dalziel and Pascoe:]. A real chiller of a mystery, the more so since the villain gets away with it, despite the best efforts of some quite intelligent and sympathetically drawn police. The title is a metaphor drawn from rose-gardening, which is the obsession of Patrick Aldermann. It refers to the practice of ripping off old blossoms so that young ones can survive. And all through Aldermann's life, inconvenient people have had conveniently fatal accidents, with the result that he has thrived. Eventually even the intelligent Pascoe, the bigoted but shrewd Dalziel, and the dogged and secretly sensitive Wield cannot actually prove that Aldermann is responsible for any or all of the accidents - even when the man (Elgood) who brought the business to their attention himself dies a horrible death (chemicals in the shower). Hill brings in several situations of interest - not really dynamic or substantial enough to be sub-plots, more like small movements in character. One of these is the unlikely friendship that develops between Aldermann's upper middle-class wife, Daphne, and policeman Pascoe's cheerily left-wing wife Ellie. Naturally enough, this friendship comes under considerable strain when Pascoe starts investigating Aldermann. Another situation of interest is that of the young police cadet Singh. Not only does he have to deal with routine & thoughtless racism within the force, and with the shift in loyalties away from his working-class, fringe-criminal schoolfriends, but he is also in a state of considerable doubt about his suitability for police work. That doubt is exacerbated by the gruffness and critical attitude of his immediate superior, Wield. What Singh has no way of knowing is that Wield is a closet homosexual and his gruffness is an attempt to compensate for the attraction he feels towards the young man. Nothing comes of the attraction, but in the quiet of an overnight stake-out, Wield manages to convince Singh that he is right to stay in the police force. I liked this book.