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The Price of Butcher's Meat    by Reginald Hill order for
Price of Butcher's Meat
by Reginald Hill
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What a delight it is to come upon the 23rd episode of an excellent series - with 22 prior books to dig out and enjoy! Since I enjoy English mysteries, I'm not sure how I missed Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe police procedurals before, but the series is inscribed on my reading list now.

As The Price of Butcher's Meat (whose title comes from Jane Austen's Sandition) opens, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel transfers to the Avalon Clinic in Sandytown by the sea, continuing his long, slow recovery from the terrorists' 'big bang in Mill Street' that left him in a coma in Death Comes for the Fat Man. Readers share Dalziel's perspective on the clinic - and his forays outside it - as he shares them with Mildred (a tape recorder supplied to him as part of his therapy, that comes in very handy later on in the story).

Dalziel's commentary alternates with that of the insightful Charley Heywood - a local farmer's daughter who is doing a postgrad thesis in psychology - seen through her regular emails to her sister Cassie who is nursing in Africa. Charley is staying with Tom Parker and his family - including observant young Minnie - in Sandytown.

The major players in Sandytown are wealthy Tom Parker and Lady Daphne Denham ('a woman used to getting her own way' who has married several times to her own advantage, but not to that of her deceased husbands). They are in the throes of a big development, building a '5 star luxury hotel & recreational health center' in Sandytown, though their interests differ - for Lady D., it's all about profit, while Tom's focus is alternate medicine.

Staying with Lady D. is a poor relative, lovely young Clara Brereton. Also answering to her beck and call are her impoverished niece and nephew by marriage, hunky Ted and icy Esther Denham. And raunchy, sixty-something Lady D. has her eye on the Avalon clinic's Dr. Feldenhammer for her next husband, though he seeks to avoid her. Soon Tom's dishy brother Sidney arrives on the scene. Unkempt faith healer Gordon Godley quickly develops a crush on Charley, who herself is torn between three attractive men.

Other players include the clinic's chief nurse, an acupuncturist, a local innkeeper and Lady D's ex-brother-in-law, who has good cause to hate her. And Dalziel is shocked to encounter the charming Franny Roote, with whom both he and Pascoe have a long history. It started with sending Roote to prison and ended with Roote's saving the life of Pascoe's daughter Rosie, leaving him in a wheelchair for life. Dalziel tells Mildred that 'Folk were always dropping dead round Roote' and naturally that trend continues.

When murder at a hog roast hosted by Lady Denham brings Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe and his cohorts to the scene, a convalescent Dalziel keeps his hand in, steering the investigation from the sidelines. There are more deaths before Reginald Hill maneuvers his plot - which twists and turns like the Yorkshire coastline - to a masterful conclusion. Don't miss The Price of Butcher's Meat. I liked the unusual storytelling technique (which works surprisingly well), loved Dalziel's colorful turn of phrase, and plan to hunt down more of this excellent series.

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