Thursday, June 28, 2012

ON BEULAH HEIGHT by Reginald Hill

Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height is surely one of his finest Dalziel/Pascoe novels.

Detective Superintendent Fat Andy Dalziel, Peter Pascoe, and the remainder of their team investigate a missing child in the Yorkshire village of Danby.

The team includes the hyper-organized Sgt. Edgar Wield, and a new recruit, DC Shirley Novello, whose fresh, stubborn outlook helps solve the case.

Dalziel is driven. He remembers fifteen years ago. He and his team were unable to find three kidnapped children in Dendale.

The local water district legally commandeered Dendale, bulldozed the town, and flooded it to make a reservoir. They moved the small town up to the hills. Most of Dendale’s residents settled in Danby.

The present kidnapping reminds Danby residents of Dalziel’s previous failures. A fourth child escaped from the kidnapper. She is coming back to Danby, now as a well-known classical singer. She will sing a special concert. Her solo is Mahler’s “Songs for Dead Children.”

In the midst of all this, Peter and Ellie Pascoe’s young daughter Rosie contracts Bacterial Meningitis. A friend’s daughter is in the hospital with the same disease. It looks as if both children will die.

The story embodies the never-ending, long-term, wrenching emotional grief a child’s death brings. The story also has to do with the death of a community.

We lived one time in a community created from people displaced by a huge lake. Even more than fifty years later some older people still cursed the electric company which created the lake. Sometimes you could look down through the water and see the outlines of the foundations of bulldozed buildings. If you were looking for the gravesite of a relative buried in one of those underwater towns, you had to come to the historical society and find the grave on a plat map. Then you had to look at another map to see where the grave movers had moved the grave. And that only worked if the electric company had found your loved one’s grave and moved it. Otherwise, your loved one still rested under the water.

That kind of grief doesn’t die.

On Beulah Height, more than any other of the Dalziel/Pascoe stories I’ve read so far, is a kaleidoscope of separate stories. Hill weaves them together with craft and power.

This more-than-500-page book is almost impossible to describe. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you give it a try.


pattinase (abbott) said...

This is my favorite for sure.

Joe Barone said...

I can see why. It is his masterpiece among Hill's books I've read so far.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Actually not read this one but I have been promising to try and re-read the whole Dalziel and Pascoe series in chronological order so I hope to get to it soon-ish as it sounds pretty amazing, even for Hill!

Gerard Saylor said...

Sounds good. There was a recent AP article about the anniversary of intentional flooding in Georgia where DELIVERANCE was set. I must admit I only scanned the piece. Link to article in Atlanta newspaper:

Joe Barone said...

Sergio, I thought the book was pretty amazing even for Reginald Hill.

Gerard, We lived ten years in an area composed of several towns created by flooding lower-lying towns to create a large hydro-electric dam and lake. Those who remembered the flooding still had strong feelings about it.