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Deadheads (1983)

de Reginald Hill

Séries: Dalziel and Pascoe (7)

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532645,835 (3.9)19
'Humour and topicality along a cold enigmatic trail of murder' Observer Life is on the up for Patrick Aldermann: his Great Aunt Florence has collapsed into her rose bed leaving him Rosemont House with its splendid gardens. But when his boss, 'Dandy' Dick Elgood, suggests to Peter Pascoe that Aldermann is a murderer - then later retracts the accusation - the detective inspector is left with a thorny problem. Not only have the police already dug up some interesting information about Aldermann's beautiful wife; it also appears that his rapid promotion has been helped by the convenient deaths of some of his colleagues...… (mais)
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A Rose Cultivator as Macbethian Murderer?
Review of the Harper paperback edition (2009) of the MacMillan/HarperCollins hardcover original (1983)

Don't be cheeky to the customers unless they're nicked, or you're Dalziel.. - Sergeant Wield remembers an old rule.


'You fat bastard,' she said. 'You haven't changed have you? They all said you were a nasty bit of work then, and you still are now. I'll leave you to finish this muck. Next time you take a lady out, probably in another fifty years, try to buy her a decent bottle of wine instead of five gallons of this sludge, will you? Give my regards to Yorkshire.' - a witness reacts to Superintendent Dalziel's attempts to gain background information by plying her with drink.


Yorkshire CID Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel (pronounced "dee-ELL") and assistants Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe and Detective Sergeant Wield are set on the trail of accountant Patrick Aldermann when his boss at a home-fixtures conglomerate suspects that Aldermann's career rise is due to the number of dead bodies left in his wake. All of the previous deaths had been written off as accidents, but the trail gets increasingly long and appears to stretch all the way back to Aldermann's youth.

Aldermann himself seems the most unlikely of suspects and acts as if he is barely interested in his business career and instead obsesses over the extensive rose garden in the estate which he has inherited. His constant 'deadheading' of dying blooms though would seem to be a metaphor for trimming old growth out of the way so that youth and ambition can prevail. Will the Yorkshire CID find any actual evidence of murder though?

The side-plots involve Peter Pascoe's wife Ellie becoming friends with Daphne Aldermann, even while her husband is on the investigation of the latter's husband. The still-closeted homosexual Sergeant Wield is meanwhile distracted by the physical attractions of new police cadet Shaheed Singh, which he tries to repress by assuming a cold and unwelcoming attitude. Meanwhile a string of house burglaries in the area has the constabulary seeking for clues to break the case.

This was an earlier Dalziel & Pascoe which I backtracked to read in my current 2022 re-read mini-binge. I had skipped Deadheads originally back in the 1980s, but now I see it as a major step in author Hill's development from a more simplistic police procedural writer into a more developed author with an increased level of characterization alongside the investigative elements.

See cover image at https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1379377661...
Cover image of the original MacMillan/HarperCollins hardcover edition (1983). Image sourced from Goodreads.

I backtracked to read Deadheads due to a recent discovery of my old mystery paperbacks from the 1980s in a storage locker cleanout. I had also been curious about the precedents for Mick Herron's Jackson Lamb in the Slough House espionage series in the personality of Reginald Hill's Chief Inspector Andy Dalziel, which Herron has acknowledged.

See photograph at https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FZkxI4CXkAAu2sG?format=jpg&name=large
Book haul of the early Dalziel and Pascoe paperbacks, mostly from Grafton Books in the 1980s. Image sourced from Twitter.

Trivia and Link
Deadheads was adapted for television in 1997 as Episode 3 of Series 2 of the long running TV series of Dalziel and Pascoe (1996-2007). Although many of the episodes are posted on YouTube in a series here, there is no posting for Deadheads. ( )
  alanteder | Sep 28, 2022 |
Dandy Dick Elgood is concerned that one of his employees might, just might, be a serial killer, so he approaches his friend Dalziel, who in turn passes him on to Peter Pascoe for follow-up. Almost immediately after their talk, Dandy Dick retracts his accusations, saying he didn’t know what he was thinking about. But there are other indications that the employee, a rose-obsessed accountant named Patrick Alderman, might be somewhat more than he seems…. This is the seventh in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series, set in contemporary Yorkshire. I go back and forth with these books, because Dalziel is either very funny in a cynical kind of way or he’s terribly sexist and racist, and I just can’t seem to decide which it is in any given novel. In this one, he treats an Asian police cadet very badly while being very delicate with respect to the extremely closeted gay sergeant on his team. An interesting story, framed by descriptions of specific roses, but each reader will have to decide for herself if she can tolerate Dalziel’s manner or not. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Oct 28, 2016 |
I like DS Wield so much I got another one. Much fun to be had. Should reading be this easy? ( )
  veracite | Apr 7, 2013 |
WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

Another early Dalziel and Pascoe mystery (published in 1983). The back cover describes the events of the book as a "cold enigmatic trail of murder", and this description is very apt. It seems that whenever Patrick Aldermann runs into circumstances that may deprive him of his house, Rosemont, and its beautiful rose gardens, the person who stands in his way conveniently dies. But is he actually a murderer, or is it just coincidence? Basically, he is, but there's not enough solid evidence or reliable witnesses for the police to convict him. In this respect I think the ending is pretty realistic. Sometimes people do walk away because there's not enough solid evidence.

As for the writing and other aspects of the book, it was the usual treat to read. Hill has a lovely way with language and his dialogue sounds natural. Dalziel is his usual outrageous self, with a few lines prompting some pretty scandalized laughter. The description is very vivid -- the final victim's demise was pretty gruesome to read about, and it made the character of Patrick that much more chilling to contemplate because he displayed absolutely no remorse about it and would very likely have known just how horrifying a death his victim was in for.

It also occurs to me that the multiple murders made to look like accidents is somewhat reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Murder is Easy, although Patrick is even more subtle than the murderer in that book, because in one case it is implied that Patrick merely suggested that the victim return home at a certain time, knowing full well that the circumstances that would greet the victim would produce the desired result. Creepy.

To sum up, this is a good book, an interesting mystery and you may even pick up a thing or two about roses. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 12, 2011 |
Dalzeil/Pascoe with Hill on top of his game. This is truly a delightful book, in its clever structure—each chapter is themed by the description of a particular rose variety, and the title provides the unifying concept to the plot. There is some crackling dialogue, with the Pascoes taking more of centre stage this time. And effortlessly the author weaves in story lines of racial discrimination (both malign and benign reactions to Cadet Singh); homosexuality (Wield’s repressed desire); and marital fidelity (Daphne and Dandy Dick). And oh-by-the-way there are several suspicious deaths that follow the oddly disquieting Aldermann around. With a masterful touch Hill continues to leave the answer to the mystery in doubt until the end. Delicious. ( )
1 vote JimPratt | Aug 1, 2009 |
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'Humour and topicality along a cold enigmatic trail of murder' Observer Life is on the up for Patrick Aldermann: his Great Aunt Florence has collapsed into her rose bed leaving him Rosemont House with its splendid gardens. But when his boss, 'Dandy' Dick Elgood, suggests to Peter Pascoe that Aldermann is a murderer - then later retracts the accusation - the detective inspector is left with a thorny problem. Not only have the police already dug up some interesting information about Aldermann's beautiful wife; it also appears that his rapid promotion has been helped by the convenient deaths of some of his colleagues...

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