Review: A Cure For All Diseases by Reginald Hill

Title: A Cure For All Diseases (the 23rd of 24 Dalziel and Pascoe novels and published as The Price of Butcher’s Meat in the US)

Author: Reginald Hill

Publisher: Whole Story Audio Books [2009]

ISBN: N/A (bought via digital download from audible.com)

Length: 15hours 49minutes

Narrator: Jonathan Keeble

After barely surviving a terrorist blast Superintendent Andy Dalziel is convalescing at a swanky private clinic in the seaside resort of Sandytown in Yorkshire. He befriends another young visitor to the town, Charlotte (Charley) Heywood, who is the daughter of an old Rugby mate of Dalziel’s and a psychologist reviewing the benefits of alternative therapies. They are both keen observers of the people and happenings in the town and record their observations: Andy using a digital audio recorder provided by his doctor and Charley via a series of emails to her sister. As with all fairly closed communities there are a couple of prominent families whose lives seem to impact everyone in the town directly or indirectly and the same is true of Sandytown which is the setting for a soon to be opened alternative healing centre. When one of the town’s most prominent citizens is killed in a gruesome way a full police investigation, headed by Dalziel’s old partner Peter Pascoe, gears up but Andy and Charley’s continuing observations play a key role in the solving of the murder.

This is, more than usually, a review specifically of the audio version of A Cure For All Diseases narrated by Jonathan Keeble. Because, regardless of how good the original content is, Keeble added a truly wonderful element that I don’t think could exist in the print version. His portrayal of the two main narrators of the story, ageing male Dalziel and young, somewhat excitable female Charley is truly magnificent and he rounds out the reading with an entire cast of minor players that are equally beautifully depicted. Coming back to my iPod each day became a real treat over the past week or so and I now have a sense of the anticipation people used to get as they ‘gathered round the wireless’ to hear the latest radio play in the days before television.

The format and, to some extent, the content of this story is actually Hill’s homage to Jane Austen but I don’t think it matters all that much if you’re an Austen fan and can recognise what he’s done or not. Far more important is that it provides an interesting, different approach to the standard police procedural. As someone who has lamented the formulaic writing by other well-known authors of late I applaud both the decision to do try something new and the successful execution of that decision. About half of the story is told via the recorded observations of Charley and Dalziel and I thoroughly enjoyed their dual points of view, especially the brave inclusion of a significant narrative voice that wasn’t Dalziel or Pascoe. The rest of the story is told via a more traditional narrative but the two forms are pretty seamlessly integrated.

There’s a strong undertone of humour through this book that I haven’t noticed in the series before (although I’ve not read a large number of them so maybe it has been present). Both Dalziel and Charley’s epistles are full of humour that suits their respective characters: Dalziel’s is coarse and reminiscent of a 1970’s comedian dripping with barely concealed sexual innuendo while Charley’s is full of the biting observations that a modern young woman might share with her friends in an online chat room. I found this added a very natural component to the characterisations and, particularly in the case of Dalziel, provided a layer of credibility to a character that I’ve struggled to believe in previously. He’s still all-seeing, all-knowing Fat Andy that nearly everyone is instantly afraid of, but the humorous monologue provides an insight into what makes him tick and because of it I cringed less and saw him as a more well-rounded character.

The book isn’t the fastest paced story you’ll find, especially where the two narrative voices overlap and recount the same events from their different perspectives, but the relatively slow revelation of events allowed the myriad of characters to be more fully developed than would otherwise have been the case. Rather than being ‘filler’ content of the ‘a book must have 500 pages’ variety this was a highly nuanced building up of a picture of the town and its inhabitants and I was completely captivated. I have to admit the final conclusion bordered on contrived but I forgave this minor lapse in what was otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Hill is to be congratulated for maintaining interest in his long-running series by trying something innovative with this book. I also admire the fact you don’t need to be a die hard fan of Dalziel and Pascoe to enjoy the book (although I doubt it hurts if you are). If you’re at all keen on audio books I’d highly recommend you relax and let Keeble’s narration spirit you away to Yorkshire for a few hours.

My rating 5/5

Other stuff

As Hill as a huge legion of fans his book has been reviewed by lots of fellow book bloggers including those at Mysteries in Paradise, Reviewing the Evidence, Euro Crime, Aust Crime Fiction and Ms Bookish

6 thoughts on “Review: A Cure For All Diseases by Reginald Hill

  1. I am getting more and more certain that I will have to give Hill a second chance – in English. I have read 2-3 of his Dalziel & Pascoes in Danish and not really taken to them.

    I should know by now that novels which include slang & a working class environment do not translate very well.

  2. Yes I do think it would be hard to translate the peculiar Yorkshire language. You are so clever to be able to read in two languages though

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