This has been a very good year for fans of English mystery writer Reginald Hill and his detectives, Superintendent Andrew Dalziel and Inspector Peter Pascoe. Hill's most recent novel, ''Deadheads,'' which features Dalziel and Pascoe, was published by Macmillan in May. The first novel in the Dalziel-Pascoe series, ''A Clubbable Woman,'' was originally published in England in 1970. The first American edition was published in September by the Countryman Press under its Foul Play Press imprint.
The Countryman Press publishes about half a dozen Foul Play Press titles every year, some in hard cover, some in paperback. All the titles are reprints. In addition to Reginald Hill, the current list of authors includes Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Joseph Hansen, and Bill Pronzini. Another Reginald Hill novel, ''An Advancement of Learning,'' will be published next year.
Reading Hill's Dalziel-Pascoe series in order, starting with ''A Clubbable Woman'' and ending with ''Deadheads'' (with, among others, ''Ruling Passion,'' ''A Pinch of Snuff,'' and ''A Killing Kindness'' in between), allows the reader to follow the progress of Dalziel and Pascoe in their personal lives and in their careers as detectives with the mid-Yorkshire Criminal Investigation Department. It also demonstrates that Reginald Hill gets better with each mystery.
Hill's polished, sophisticated novels are intelligently written and permeated with his sly and delightful sense of humor. His humor touches both his realistic , sympathetic characters and his descriptions of life in small English towns. More than most other mystery novels, Hill's Dalziel-Pascoe novels are enjoyable as much for their characters as for their complicated, suspenseful mystery plots.
The relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe allows Hill to make good use of his humor and his insight into human nature. Peter Pascoe and his boss, Andy Dalziel, could not be more different. Dalziel is a lower-class veteran policeman , a huge, middle-aged man with a grizzled head. He is a tactless, chauvinistic boor; yet he is also a shrewd and cunning detective. The equally shrewd Pascoe is young, middle class, university educated, and progressive in his attitudes. He is also tall, dark-haired, and good-looking. Although Pascoe and Dalziel approach their jobs differently, they respect each other, and they make an effective detection team.
In between ''A Clubbable Woman'' and ''Deadheads,'' Hill added several continuing characters: the enigmatic Sergeant Wield; the annoying dental hygienist, Thelma Lacewing; and the most likable and interesting of the group, Pascoe's wife, Ellie, an attractive, intelligent, and very liberal college lecturer.
The Dalziel-Pascoe series has traced her relationship with Peter from the renewing of their former university friendship through their marriage and the birth of their daughter. Ellie marries Peter despite her reservations about being associated with the police. She also has doubts about her suitability as a wife and mother, and her verbal bouts with Peter and Dalziel are very entertaining.