Two mutton pasties, an almond slice and a custard tart are not the normal order that a superior officer would give to a subordinate faced with a possible armed siege. But then, Andy Dalziel's never been one for all that official mucking about and Hector's never been one that anybody really believes. Number 3 Mill Street, an Asian and Arab specialist Video store, is an address flagged for low level interest by the Combined Anti-Terrorism Unit. Inspector Ireland's not convinced that Dalziel is taking this seriously enough. Inevitably he has to ring Peter Pascoe to tell him about this latest grievance with the Fat Man's response but what Peter doesn't expect is that it is Ellie that nudges him from his Bank Holiday hammock musing that Andy may need to be discouraged from starting his own Gulf War.
Meanwhile Andy is breaking every single rule in the CAT book. No roadblocks, no observation, no holding off until the CAT group can respond, and Andy hunkered down behind his car on the other side of the street, waving a bullhorn around and inviting the people in the store to order their own pasties. Pascoe thinks he's using heavy handed irony when he suggests “all you need do is stroll over there, check everything's OK, then leave a note for the CAT man on the shop door saying you've got it sorted and would he like a cup of tea back at the Station?” Unfortunately irony is often wasted on Andy and classic insult delivered, he struggles to his feet and confidently steps across the street towards No 3.
Mill Street then blows up.
Taking the full brunt of the explosion, Dalziel is critically injured, comatose and desperately ill. Pascoe is a little luckier, shielded from the initial blast by the Fat Man himself, he's bruised battered and befuddled, but as the crash cart is called to Andy, torn between grief and anger, acceptance and incomprehension, Peter is determined to find out what happened. Seconded to the CAT Unit as damage control by them (“better on the inside pissing out”), anybody who thinks that one of Dalziel's men can be tamed by token gestures, has obviously underestimated the stretch and tenacity of the Fat Man's influence.
The plot gets more and more complex as connections emerge between the explosion, terrorism, the Yorkshire Muslim community, the CAT Unit, young Hector and even Pascoe himself. Wield is there, providing quiet and faithful backup to Pascoe, distressed by Dalziel's fate and worried about Pascoe. Ellie is supporting her husband whilst dealing with her own feelings, worried about the increasing violence as the investigation gets closer to a mysterious group called the Knights Templar. In a luscious touch of irony, the CAT Unit is headed by Sandy Glenister – Scottish, female, forthright, bawdy and unorthodox. She is a woman who truly could have jousted with Dalziel and lived to tell the tale.
Part of the joy of DEATH OF DALZIEL is as always, the style. The language is peppered with the obscure and unexpected, alongside the most wonderful broad brush Yorkshire phrasing and terminology that just leaps off the page and draws the reader in – and I suspect, leaves you with a tendency to use “owt” and “yon” in your own conversation for quite a long time after the reading has finished.
The humour is also particularly of it's place. Slightly bawdy, edgy and self-deprecating. Only Dalziel, comatose, lying in a hospital bed, and having an out of body experience could joke about his position. Only Wieldy could sit quietly in his backyard, all hell breaking out around him, sneaking a marmoset toast with butter and jam. Surely Hill is one of the few writers who could draw the fabulous Tottie (could she be the Tottie from the Mecca Ballroom?), the classic Yorkshire wife and mother, conversion to Islam or not – she's a Yorkshire-woman first.
DEATH OF DALZIEL is going to grab you from that first explosion and keep you reading, wondering and hoping right to the very end.