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DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN:
A Dalziel and Pascoe Mystery
By Reginald Hill
Harper/an imprint of HarperCollins, 2008, c2007 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Say it isn’t so! When Superintendent Andy Dalziel and his sidekick Peter Pascoe are called out to #3 Mill Street for a possible terrorist threat, they aren’t too concerned. The original call of a possible "man with a gun" came in from Constable Hector, the "albatross around Mid-Yorkshire’s Constabulary’s neck." Hector is good-hearted but dim, his reports to be taken with a grain of salt. The anti-terrorist group also turned out at Mill Street to handle a possible siege threat, which Fat Andy considers overkill.
This time, Constable Hector was right. A bomb destroys the row of shops around No.3, seriously injures Pascoe, and leaves the Fat Man fighting for his life. Two bodies are found in the rubble of the video shop -- innocent victims or evil-doers hoist on their own petard? Inspector Pascoe is furious, determined to find and punish those responsible for leaving his friend in a hospital bed, a great mound of unresponsive flesh. While Daziel is taking his own journey, floating around the hospital in a delightful "out of body' sequence, having silent conversations with someone trying to pull him into the light, unconcerned about which direction to take, Pascoe, the usually calm voice of reason to Andy’s bull in the china shop, seems to be channeling his boss’s personality. He grows increasingly grumpy and aggressive, especially when the anti-terrorist group, CAT, tries to take over the case. He thinks that he can keep Andy alive by finding out what happened at #3 Mill St., and he doesn’t want anybody else to be messing around with the investigation. He even goes so far as to act outside the rules and face certain censure by doing so.
There is indeed a terrorist group involved, a modern-day Knights Templar taking matters into their own hands when people of Middle Eastern descent are found not guilty of crimes they might actually have committed. Pascoe begins to suspect that men in very high places, even among the justice system, are involved. His investigation even takes a toll on his marriage. Ellie asks him to let others find the criminals responsible for Andy’s plight instead of wearing himself out and putting himself, and possibly his family, in danger. Because of her own connections she becomes part of the intrigue as well.
Does the Fat Man sing at the end? You’ll have to read it and find out. Hill keeps the reader guessing all the way to the end, with some twists and turns you won’t see coming. I enjoyed this book very much -- it was fun to see Pascoe take charge, trying to figure out WWAD, trying to fill those very big shoes. Seeing Andy helpless for a change is interesting too -- and as one might suspect, in his own inimitable fashion he is not really helpless at all. He uses one of his special weapons to get peoples’ attention, and his lady-love has her own way of communicating with him that mirrors a recent My Name is Earl episode -- it involves bacon and tobacco. There is action, intrigue, romance, sadness, humor and sweetness all wrapped up in a fine story.
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