REGINALD HILL – Blood Sympathy. Joe Sixsmaith #1. St. Martin’s, US, hardcover, 1994. Worldwide Library, US, paperback, 1996. First published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1993.

   Hill has long been one of my favorite authors with the Dalziel & Pascoe books, and I think he’s one of the finest crime writers now practicing. His new series looked to be a big departure for him, and I approached it with mixed anticipation.

   Joe Sixsmith is short, black, balding and a made-redundant lathe operator turned PI in Luton, Bedfordshire, but not a wildly successful one, mind you. He’s single, too, with an odd aunt determined to change that state. His troubles start when a man comes to him with the story of a dream wherein he finds his family murdered; then the family is murdered, just so. They intensify when an effort to help an Indian lady lands him in trouble with both the drug cops and the drug dealers. And there’s a little episode with a millionaire businessman who’s also a witch. Mix it all together and Joe has a busy book.

   It’s a real change of pace for Hill, and how well you like it will depend on how well you like the type; it goes almost without saying that Hill does it very competently. It’s a cozy kind of story, light for all its subject matter, and with little of Hill’s customary bite. Sixsmith is a likable character, though I have some trouble anytime a white man attempts to write from a black’s viewpoint, and particularly so when he makes him as impervious to racial slurs and slights as Hill does Sixsmith.

   There were a few too many plot threads for me to maintain real focus, too. It’s not really my kind of book, well done or not, and I hope Hill doesn’t take too much time away from Dalziel and Pascoe to write more of them.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #15, September 1994.

       The Joe Sixsmith series —

Blood Sympathy (1993)
Born Guilty (1995)
Killing the Lawyers (1997)
Singing the Sadness (1999)
The Roar of the Butterflies (2008)