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Exit Lines (Reginald Hill)

Glimpses of daily life as real as anything seen through the rain-streaked windows of the bus ... totally convincing characters and a fictional part of Yorkshire as complete, as solid and as unobviously beautiful as a Victorian warehouse.

Sensibly, Reginald Hill does not give his city a name; nor does he describe its major buildings except in general terms. It has a cathedral, a small aerodrome, a ring road, a park, a canal ... but the balance between precision and generality leaves the reader free to construct his or her own mental picture. It's the same with the people, outlined clearly enough to remind you of people you know and rarely described in detail.

Exit Lines is only one of many books where Reginald Hill conjures up an entirely convincing Yorkshire that has suffered from politicians and town planners while somehow eluding the grasp of map-makers. I spent some formative years in Sheffield, and while he is careful to say that South Yorkshire is not where his books are set it's clear his Mid-Yorkshire shares a border with the People's Republic. He writes, I would say, books that happen to involve or feature many of the conventions of the detective thriller: not just crime novels. There are no simple, happy endings. There is no fashionable pessimism. Just absorbing stories filled with real people in a real region. As a bar-maid in another fictional Yorkshire remarked, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, petal."