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A Ruling Passion

by Reginald Hill (Harper Collins, 1973)

Meticulousness is the better part of serendipity.

Class, they say, will out. And in Ruling Passion are visible the glimpses of brilliance that makes makes the Independent‘s verdict of Reginald Hill being “probably the best living male crime writer in the English-speaking world” such an understatement.

Looking forward to a weekend break with some old friends, Peter Pascoe and Ellie Soper arrive at Brookside Cottage, Thornton Lacey, only to find three of their friends murdered and the fourth one absconding. Even a shellshocked Pascoe is forced to admit that it looks bad for his missing friend, the prime suspect in the eyes of the police.

Struggling to come to terms with the brutal killings, Pascoe finds his help sought out by the local CID. However, his boss Andy Dalziel (Dee-ell) is having none of it, and he wants his soon-to-be-inspector back in Yorshire as early as possible, sorting out a string of burglaries that are beginning to turn violent.

Pascoe and Ellie try to provide moral support to each other, at the same time pondering the question of a future together. Andy Dalziel emerges as oddly human in this book, showing an unlikely impassioned side to himself with regard to Pascoe. Pascoe and Dalziel form as unlikely a pair as one would find in fiction, but the seeds of an impossible friendship are now undeniably sprouting. Perhaps it is all to do with the broad pain Fat Andy has across his equally broad chest, which is making him contemplate his surroundings in a more philosophical light.

Juggling personal losses and two baffling cases, Pascoe finds everything beginning to get muddled in his mind. Can his friends’ killings and the robberies really be related or is he losing it? Just as well the new inspector is not afraid of making a fool of himself.

Ruling Passion is brilliantly put together, with police procedure and the social life of the rural affluent blended to perfection, stopping just short of being a compulsive page-turner. Written in the early 1970s, it was clear even that Reginald Hill was headed for the top.

RATING: 7.5/10