It all starts with a simple literary contest held by a journal. People could submit their stories in the hopes of getting published. One entry is in dialogue and describes the drowning of an employee of the local Automobile Association. The judges read the entry and are somewhat impressed. Within a day of reading the entry, though, a similar death is reported in the newspaper. Coincidence?

It happens again and the judges know this is no coincidence. The team of pragmatic Peter Pascoe and coarse Andy Dalziel are brought in to investigate. Their work is cut out for them as the killer strikes again, this time eliminating a sensational journalist.

The intrepid team finds themselves up against a most diabolical killer, one who announces his murders with dialogues and further tantalizes by giving away clues to his next move via word puzzles.

As always, Reginald Hill provides a provocative mystery, loaded with word play and clever clues. The personalities of Dalziel and Pascoe continue to fascinate in this elegant tale of murder. (Jan., 424 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg