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A Killing Kindness (1971)

by Reginald Hill

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dalziel and Pascoe (6)

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454647,689 (3.66)12
'Altogether an enjoyable performance, one of Mr Hill's best' Financial Times When Mary Dinwoodie is found choked in a ditch following a night out with her boyfriend, a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet. The career of the Yorkshire Choker is underway. If Superintendent Dalziel is unimpressed by the literary phone calls, he is downright angry when Sergeant Wield calls in a clairvoyant. Linguists, psychiatrists, mediums - it's all a load of nonsense as far as he is concerned, designed to make a fool of him. And meanwhile the Choker strikes again - and again...… (more)
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» See also 12 mentions

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The Shakespearean Strangler
Review of the Grafton Books paperback edition (1987) of the Collins Crime Club hardcover original (1980)

I say we will have no more marriages, those that married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go." - excerpt from Shakespeare's [book:Hamlet|1420], used as a taunt by the killer in A Killing Kindness.

Yorkshire CID Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel (pronounced "dee-ELL") and assistants Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe and Detective Sergeant Wield are faced with a serial killer case in A Killing Kindness. Various seemingly unrelated women are being strangled and the killer begins making phone-calls to the local press quoting excerpts from Hamlet for no apparent reason. The Yorkshire CID are stumped and begin using the assistance of everyone from clairvoyants to speech dialect experts in an effort to break the case.

The non-politically correct Dalziel provokes the suspects, witnesses and lawyers in his own inimitable style, accompanied by the now standard belching and scratching which are his trademarks. He does provide a sort of defense for his methods though:

'That wasn't exactly conciliatory,' said Pascoe as they moved rapidly away.
'You don't conciliate that sort,' said Dalziel. 'Make 'em think you're a thick, racist, sexist, pig. Then they underestimate you and overreach themselves.'
'Ah,' said Pascoe and wondered privately what strange self-image Dalziel kept locked away in his heart.


The sideplots provide further background on Pascoe's home life with feminist Ellie, who is expecting their first child. Ellie crosses swords with Dalziel in various satisfactory ways. We also learn behind the scenes that Sergeant Wield is a closeted homosexual in a long distance relationship.

The case is solved in the end of course when Pascoe finds a breakthrough clue. The finale is perhaps a touch unrealistic, when justice is served through apparent supernatural means. Still this was a satisfactory episode of the series.

See front cover at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/19/AKillingKindness.jpg
Cover image of the original Collins Crime Club hardcover edition (1980). Image sourced from Wikipedia.

I re-read A Killing Kindness due to a recent discovery of my old mystery paperbacks from the 1980s in a storage locker cleanout. I was also curious about the precedents for Mick Herron's Jackson Lamb in the Slough House espionage series in the personality of Reginald Hill's Chief Inspector Andy Dalziel, which Herron has acknowledged.

See photograph at https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FZkxI4CXkAAu2sG?format=jpg&name=large
Book haul of the early Dalziel and Pascoe paperbacks, mostly from Grafton Books in the 1980s. Image sourced from Twitter.

Trivia and Link
A Killing Kindness was adapted for television in 1997 as Episode 2 of Series 2 of the long running TV series of Dalziel and Pascoe (1996-2007). The entire episode is posted on YouTube here, but it is formatted in a way that makes it hard to watch. ( )
  alanteder | Sep 10, 2022 |
I'm familiar with these books because of the UK TV series, so I decided to give it a try. I won't be returning. The main characters aren't particularly likable, and the "who" in "whodunit" is telegraphed fairly early, always a turnoff for me. Well, at least I know now. ( )
  BarbKBooks | Aug 15, 2022 |
This is the only one I have read out of the whole series. I thought the characterization of the main police officers was well done, but there were so many characters, and I even kept getting the murdered women muddled up in my mind. The plot only really worked because the murderer spent pages explaining how and why he had done what he had done. ( )
  pgchuis | Mar 14, 2020 |
There appears to be a new serial killer in Yorkshire as "A Killing Kindness" begins, as first one, then another, and another, woman is found strangled to death. The deaths seem to be ritualistic, until the fourth one occurs which is different from all the others. And there seem to be mysterious phone calls, quoting Shakespeare, that are related to the deaths as well. Superintendent Dalziel is furious when one of his Sergeants apparently calls in a gypsy clairvoyant, but there may be no other way to solve the case before there are still more deaths…."A Killing Kindness" is the sixth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, published in 1980, and like the previous novels in this series, there’s a serious problem with the casual sexism that is a constant in the story. But if one can get past that difficulty, the story itself is intriguing, and of course the main characters are all interesting, particularly as the “regulars” intermingle and change in their relationships. The ending was wholly unsatisfying, though, so only a mild recommendation from me.
  thefirstalicat | Sep 24, 2016 |
Usual convoluted plot and literary referenecs but Dalziel's dialogue always a pleasure to read! ( )
  edwardsgt | Dec 30, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hill, Reginaldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ohinmaa, TiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The man that lays hands upon a woman, save in the way of kindness, is a wretch whom 'twere gross flattery to name a coward. John Tobin
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For Dan and Pat
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... it was green, all green, all over me, choking, the water, the boiling at first, and roaring, and seething ...
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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'Altogether an enjoyable performance, one of Mr Hill's best' Financial Times When Mary Dinwoodie is found choked in a ditch following a night out with her boyfriend, a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet. The career of the Yorkshire Choker is underway. If Superintendent Dalziel is unimpressed by the literary phone calls, he is downright angry when Sergeant Wield calls in a clairvoyant. Linguists, psychiatrists, mediums - it's all a load of nonsense as far as he is concerned, designed to make a fool of him. And meanwhile the Choker strikes again - and again...

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