Minette Walters (previous posts) leads me to Reginald Hill. Hill wrote mountains of prose, and all it was filled with the perfect quotability that only first-water hacks ever achieve. In Dalziel & Pascoe series I find the Hercule Poirot in the stout no-nonsense detective Dalziel. But in my current book, Pictures of Perfection, it’s the young, grim detective Wield that shines.
The book starts slow but it’s riddled with surprises. The small village of Enscombe is under siege as developers eye at the Green, which they want to convert into business centers. The local school is such huge deficit that it might face closure.
The book begins with Wield at the tail end of a very rare vacation, riding his big motorcycle (in full leather riding gear) through the seemingly idyllic village of Enscombe, where he’s briefly interrogated by an attractive young rural constable named Bendish, who learns to his dismay that he’s been laying the heavy hand on his superior on the force, much to Wield’s amusement – if you can discern it as amusement:
Wield barked the sound which friends recognized as his way of expressing amusement – though others often took it as a sign that the interrupted lycanthropic process suggested by his face was about to be resumed.
Wield no sooner reports back for duty at the station than he’s walking in on a complaint being made by one of the high-strung local grandees of Enscombe—a complaint about him, as a suspicious outsider who may or may not be connected with suspicious goings-on about town. The townsman, one Digweed, the bookseller (Tell Tale Bookstore) is astonished to find the mysterious stranger of his complaints actually working at the police station. Like most people who encounter Wieldy’s rather alarming thuggish appearance, Digweed has trouble believing there’s a trained professional underneath the surface, and he’s not diplomatic about saying so.
Needless to say, Reginal Hill paints a very British picture in the idyllic town of Enscombe. The town itself is inheriting a personality. The snobbishness, the class difference, the resistance to change, the skeptics about change. They are all encompassed in the community. There’s the old Guillesmand family that controls over half the property of town and to which townfolks owe annual feudal taxes.