Review: An Advancement of Learning, by Reginald Hill

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

The following is my contribution to Rich Westwood’s regular ‘year’ meme on his blog Past Offences: the year for December is 1971. (See the previous roundups of entries: 1963 in June, 1939 in July, 1952 in August, 1958 in September, 1932 in October, 1946 in November).

Harper, 2013. Format: Paperback. First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers in 1971. ISBN: 978-0-00-793685-4. 352 pages.

An Advancement of Learning is the second book in the Dalziel and Pascoe mystery series. In this novel, Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Sergeant Peter Pascoe have been called in to investigate the discovery of a body under a memorial at Holm Coultram College of Liberal Arts and Education. The monument was built to honour the memory of the former principal, Miss Alison Girling (1916 – 1966) who died at an avalanche in Austria during her Christmas holidays, although her remains were never found. The corpse recently discovered shows clear signs of having been murdered and was probably buried some five years ago. But soon, much to everyone’s surprise, the body can be identified positively as that of Alison Girling. 

The task of reconstructing the last days of Miss Girling, seems extremely difficult. The facts in question took place in the early hours of December 20th. Of this, it will be five years, the coming Christmas. ‘Pascoe tried it for himself and found it impossible’.

At least this wasn’t one where time was of the essence. There was no freshly killed corpse to be examined, no relatives to be informed (perhaps there were? but it wasn’t the same), no frantic rush to track down a killer, while the traces were still fresh. There were no need to browbeat witnesses to cut corners.

This one could be taken leisurely, almost academically (not that Dalziel would approve of either of those words!).

But when another body appears, Dalziel realises that it cannot be sheer coincidence, both cases must be related.

Reginald Hill has improved with this his second instalment in the series. Maybe it’s not yet up to the standard achieved in his later books, but it’s certainly much better than his first book, as far as the plot is concerned. Click on the book title to see my previous posts: A Clubbable Woman, On Beulah Height. Besides, it should be highlighted that Reginald Hill was a superb writer and is always a pleasure to read his books. An Advancement of Learning captures very nicely the atmosphere of the era in which it was written and in which the story unfolds. I find very attractive the interaction between the two main characters, of particular interest given the setting where the action takes place. And we will get to know, for the first time in this novel, some of the characters that will appear later on in the series. I should not forget to mention that the story is also plagued with highly entertaining moments with a good dose of humour. Ultimately, it was a highly enjoyable read and, therefore, I don’t hesitate to recommend it.

My rating: A (I loved it)

An Advancement of Learning has been reviewed at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist (Margot)


Felony & Mayhem

Reginald Hill Remembered (1936–2012) by Martin Edwards

Reginald Hill books at Fantastic Fiction

Un avance del aprendizaje, por Reginald Hill

An Advancement of Learning, que podría traducirse como Un avance del aprendizaje, es el segundo libro de la serie de misterio Dalziel y Pascoe. En esta novela, el superintendente Andy Dalziel y el sargento Peter Pascoe han sido llamados para investigar el hallazgo de un cuerpo bajo un monumento en el colegio universitario de artes liberales y educación Holm Coultram. El monumento fue construido para honrar la memoria de la anterior directora, la señorita Alison Girling (1916 – 1966), que murió en una avalancha en Austria durante sus vacaciones de Navidad, aunque nunca se encontraron sus restos. El cadáver recientemente descubierto muestra claros signos de haber sido asesinado y fue probablemente enterrado hará unos cinco años. Pero pronto, para sorpresa de todos, el cuerpo puede ser identificado positivamente como el de Alison Girling.

La tarea de reconstruir los últimos días de la señorita Girling, parece extremadamente difícil. Los hechos en cuestión tuvieron lugar en la madrugada del 20 de diciembre. De esto, se cumplirán cinco años, las próximaa Navidades. ‘Pascoe lo intentó para él mismo y le resultó imposible’.

Por lo menos no se trataba de un caso en donde el tiempo fuera esencial. No había que examinar un cadáver reciente, ni informar a los familiares (¿Tal vez los había? Pero no sería lo mismo), ni existía urgencia alguna por localizar al asesino, mientras las huellas aún estuvieran frescas. No había necesidad de intimidar a los testigos para poder adelantar en la investigación.

Ésta se podría llevar sin prisa, de forma casi académica (aunque Dalziel no aprobaría ninguna de estas palabras). (Mi traducción libre)

Pero cuando aparece otro cuerpo, Dalziel se da cuenta de que no puede tratarse de una simple coincidencia, ambos casos deben estar relacionados.

Reginald Hill ha mejorado con esta su segunda entrega de la serie. Tal vez aún no está a la altura alcanzada en sus libros posteriores, pero es sin duda mucho mejor que su primer libro, por lo que se refiere a la trama. Haga clic en el título del libro para ver mis reseñas anteriores: A Clubbable Woman, On Beulah Height. Además, cabe destacar que Reginald Hill era un escritor excelente y siempre es un placer leer sus libros. An Advancement of Learning capta muy bien la atmósfera de la época en que fue escrita y en la que se desarrolla la historia. Me parece muy atractiva la interacción entre los dos personajes principales, de especial interés dado el entorno donde se desarrolla la acción. Y vamos a conocer, por primera vez en esta novela, algunos de los personajes que aparecerán más adelante en la serie. No debo olvidar mencionar que la historia también está plagada de momentos muy entretenidos con una buena dosis de humor. En definitiva, fue una lectura muy agradable y, por lo tanto, no dudo en recomendarla.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

14 thoughts on “Review: An Advancement of Learning, by Reginald Hill”

  1. Thank you very much for the kind mention, José Ignacio. I agree with you that this one is better than the first. I also like the look we get at university life at that time. And I do love Dalziel’s reaction to it.

  2. This is one of my favorites in the Dalziel and Pascoe series (of the 11 I have read, I still have many more to read). And I just recently watched the TV adaptation, which was very enjoyable. Your review is great.

      1. I almost always like the book better. In this case it did not make so much difference because it has been so long since I read some of the books. I had read Under Ground more recently, so watching that adaptation, I noticed more differences. I don’t really like the Ellie character in the adaptations, nor does my husband (who has not read the books).

  3. Must get round to Reginald Hill on my blog – thanks for the reminder. While I wasn’t keen on one or two of the later D & P novels, some of them are outstanding. Great review.

    1. I appreciate your comment and your kind words, Moira. Honestly I did not pay much attention to how the characters were dressed, but I’m sure you’ll be able to highlight some details I may have overlooked.

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