What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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Field-Tested by Laura Demanski
in North Whitefield, Maine
Companionably creaky, almost two-hundred years old, the Maine house that belongs to my friends, the Weisses, contains more books than everything else in it put together. The books are old and new, thick and thin, serious and frivolous. But off the main bedroom upstairs is the big fix: a low-slung, unfinished room reserved for mystery and crime novels most of them in the original editions collected, read, and reread over two lifetimes. All of Westlake is there. All of Francis. All of P.D. James. And, to the permanent enrichment of my reading life, all of Reginald Hill.
Well in advance of my visit a few autumns ago, it had been decided by family fiat that I would spend my week in Maine reading Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries, beginning with A Clubbable Woman. The matter was out of my hands. The first four books of the series most of them now out of print had been extracted from the mystery library and stacked in a neat, chronologically-ordered pile on my nightstand. The stack exuded authority. I accepted my assignment. Truth be told, I was happy to shrug off the burden of choice.
Most of that week, the four of us lounged on the screened-in back porch that looks out on a lawn, then woods. Each person inhabited his or her own little world on the page, but we were somehow social in our neighboring cocoons. I was in Yorkshire, England, where fat, blunt police superintendent Andy Dalziel, and his employee of more refined sensibilities, inspector Peter Pascoe, overcome their native mutual antipathy in the interests of justice. In Hill's series, the strong sense of place is delivered through the characters. From my southside Chicago three-flat, where I've read the next five or six books in the series, Dalziel and Pascoe perform the neat trick of evoking two different faraway places at once: a place I love and a place I've never been.
Laura Demanski is a writer living in Chicago. She blogs about books, culture, the arts, and occasionally ice hockey at About Last Night.
Read the next Field Test by Aaron James Draplin