Mike Ripley's Crime File; Book Reviews

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Reginald Hill's 21st novel featuring his Mid-Yorkshire policemen Dalziel and Pas-coe (as seen on TV) is ominously entitled The Death of Dalziel (HarperCollins, pounds 17.99) and indeed it begins very ominously for "Fat Andy" Dalziel, with an explosion at a house suspected of being a base for terrorists.

His injuries confine Dalziel to hospital where he remains in a coma while the younger, fitter, far more politically-correct Pascoe unravels the mystery behind the explosion, a fanatical terrorist organisation (though not one you might have suspected) and an ex-SAS man turned bestselling author.

All this allows Hill to ruminate masterfully on the state of the nation as well as getting in some crafty sideswipes at publishers and their publicity people.

What he does best of all is get the reader rooting for Pascoe, seemingly out of his depth at times, to get to the bottom of things to the extent that we almost forget that Dalziel's life hangs by a thread, albeit a pretty strong one.

Is it the end of Dalziel? Fans of this series, which began in 1970, will be on tenterhooks.

Don Winslow is an American writer who has, with his first three or four books, achieved cult status, certainly among other writers. His latest, The Winter of Frankie Machine (Heine-mann, pounds 11.99) shows why.

The Frankie Machine of the title is a retired Califor-nian gangster, devoted to his family, just trying to live a quiet life. Of course he can't, because he has a history within organised crime and it begins to catch up with him. Given that the hero of this book is actually a professional hit man, the reader should have little sympathy when other killers come out of the woodwork to get him.

Don Winslow, however, is a clever writer and with his gift for character and dialogue, we soon end up cheering for Frankie and willing him to survive, even if the final shoot-out does require a huge suspension of disbelief.

Ken Bruen is an Irishman who is also a cult figure in America, his work having been disgracefully overlooked on this side of the Atlantic for nearly a decade. …