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[781] Pictures of Perfection – Reginald Hill


“Haven’t you noticed it’s political parties and the religions with the clearest notions of the perfect society that cause the most harm? Once admit the notion of human perfectibility, and the end can be made to justify any moment of pain and suffering along the way? (Volume III, Ch.6, 199)

Disclaimer: this is an enjoyable enough read but not the one to start with the series. It’s a rather odd installment, very strange tale of a Yorkshire village, some prototypical English village, with its idyllic setting, its architecture, its antiquities, its society, its economy, all combining to offer something like that pastoral perfection; yet a closer examination reveals much about the place which is deceptive if not downright deceitful.

Pictures of Perfection begins with a grisly “murder” scene on the Day of Reckoning in which townfolks come to pay feudal taxes to the Squire. Then the narrative goes back in time to a few days before the crime and gradually deconstructs everything. A policeman constable Bendish has gone missing; and Sergeant Wield and DI Pascoe have been sent out to investigate what has happened to him.

During the course of this investigation, old, dark secrets, family feuds, disputes, break-ins, kleptomania,, clandestine liaisons are revealed. So are the crises of Enscombe, where the school is in deficit, and the village teeters on the brink of cataclysmic change. The key to the cop’s disappearance revolves around a painting and its forgery.

Given the huge cast and the intricate relations, there is very little story, and what there is is told in a strange, unconnected way. The twist at the end does little to save the book. While everything was needed for the ending, there was little sense of motion, of progress toward a resolution. It’s difficult to keep one engrosses and the pages are turning sluggishly.

340 pp. Dell Book. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]