cover image Born Guilty

Born Guilty

Reginald Hill. St. Martin's Press, $65 (222pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13032-9

In Pictures of Perfection, 1994's Dalziel/Pascoe mystery, Hill conjured up a nearly faultless puzzle with virtually no crime and no dead folks. Less successful is this, the second in his series starring laconic, balding, middle-aged Joe Sixsmith, a black detective in the gritty English town of Luton. Joe has an old suit, an old cat, a young lover and an aunt who wishes he would settle down with a nice girl. Joe sings with the church choir, sips Guinness in a bar full of Gary Glitter fans and stumbles into cases. These involve a dead homeless boy, a high-ranking cop's wife accused of sexual harassment and a relative of Joe's girl who might just be a war criminal. Hill is lamentably slapdash with all three plot threads, and the whole thing quickly deteriorates into provincial coyness. Those who have never listened to Gary Glitter or been anywhere near Luton won't get many of the jokes-but, on the other hand, they can bless their luck, as both are truly grim. A petition demanding that Hill stick to Dalziel/Pascoe capers or the psychological chillers he pens as Patrick Ruell might be in order. (May)