The Wood Beyond - Reginald Hill Reginald Hill continues to amaze me. The Wood Beyond is truly wonderful. This is startling because Hill writes thrillers under the pseudonym of Patrick Rule that are just not terribly interesting. The Wood Beyond concerns a group of animal rights activists who discover a body while on a nocturnal visit to an animal experimentation laboratory. The leader of the group, Cap Marvel, a woman to warm the heart if not the cockles of Andy Dalziel, and built with peaks resembling a famous mountain range, invites Andy over for lunch. She admires his efficient technique: “There was no impression of gluttony, no overfilling of or over-spilling from the mouth which would indeed have been difficult given the cetacean dimension of that maw, just a simple procession of food through the marble portals of his teeth, short rhythmic manduca­tion, and a quick swallow which hardly registered on the massy column of his esophagus. The pie vanished save for the small wedge she had taken.” “He said, ‘You going to eat or just watch?’ “She began to nibble at the pastry crust, still observing with awe as he split one of the baguettes in half, expertly lined it with cheese, crisps, salad, and pickled onions, replaced the lid, and holding the esculent torpedo in both hands, raised it to his lips.”

It gets better yet. Cap goes on to decipher the origin of her nickname “Cap.” Andy explains why he doesn't want to be informal. “Ah well, I try not to get too friendly wi’ folk I might have to bang up.” She replies, “I take it your idiom is penal rather than penile, Superintendent?”

A subplot concerns Pascoe’s grandmother’s funeral. She had always wanted her ashes buried or scattered around the military outfit her husband had belonged to when he was killed during the First World War. A chance encounter with the custodian of the regimental history reveals that his grandfather had been shot for cowardice. Pascoe digs deeper and soon many names begin to surface. All is not what it seems.