Reginald Hill was brought up in Cumbria, and has returned there after many years in Yorkshire. With his first crime novel, A Clubbable Woman, he was hailed as `the crime novel's best hope' and twenty years on he has more than fulfilled that prophecy.
All kinds of minor pleasures conspire in this third in the Joe Sixsmith series (Blood Sympathy; Born Guilty). Joe's a black PI in the not especially famous English town of Luton. He solves crimes less by detection than by his own brand of scrupulous honesty, which creates a kind of white light in which the bad guys invariably stand out. After Joe's insurance company undervalues his wrecked and beloved old car, he seeks the counsel of a rude and fancy lawyer. The visit ends in shouting‘and becomes a case when the lawyer is murdered. Another lawyer in the dead man's firm is killed, and Joe, after being cleared as a suspect, is hired to investigate by a remaining partner in the firm. A concurrent case finds him hired on to investigate the threats being issued to Zak Oto, a woman runner who is being warned not to participate in the opening events of Luton's swank new sports complex. Zak has a close family, a jealous sister, a nasty Welsh bodyguard and the usual conniving collection of agents and coaches. All this happens close to the New Year, when Joe gets a lot of kisses at his favorite pub, and his cat gets drunk and sick (in that order). Hill is more famous for the Dalziel and Pascoe novels; his Sixsmith stories are of a different and somewhat lesser stripe. Joe is, nonetheless, a likable oddity, his own man, lucky rather than intuitive, not especially ambitious but loyal to a fault and an unpredictable, entertaining fellow. (Sept.)
`The Sixsmith series has a buoyancy and delectability of its own'
YA‘Joe Sixsmith, a black private investigator working in the failing factory town of Lufton, England, becomes the object of police inquiry after he has the misfortune of being found at the crime scene both times prominent lawyers are murdered. As he attempts to clear his name, Sixsmith's attention is divided because he is also attempting to find the source of threats sent to a popular young athlete, Zak Oto. The world-class runner is being pressured to throw a New Year's Day race at the grand opening of Lufton Pleasure Dome, touted as the opportunity to rejuvenate a fading community. Juggling his own dilemma with the police and the puzzling threats, Sixsmith works his way through the many strata of Lufton's high and low life, meeting unsavory track and sports denizens, snobby lawyers, and the baffling Oto family. No matter how messy his life becomes, Sixsmith and his cat Whitey always manage to land on their feet and see that the culprits are caught. This third Joe Sixsmith mystery is loaded with the street slang and local color that underlies the serious social questions Hill delivers to his readers as the story unfolds and Joe's problems take on multifaceted dimensions. A mystery with a thoughtful message conveyed by an offbeat private detective.‘Mary T. Gerrity, Queen Anne School, Upper Marlboro, MD