Reginald Hill's Midnight Fugue may be the newest Dalziel and Pascoe novel, but it reads like one of the oldest. This is not simply a matter of length--it's over two hundred pages shorter than Death's Jest-Book--but also, and more importantly, of structure. Given the title and the tempo markings that divide the novel into books, the reader understandably expects an intricately-arranged narrative. But although music plays a thematic role, the novel's real structure derives from the classical and neo-classical "unities": the entire book takes place in a single day, with each chapter covering a matter of minutes (interspersed with the occasional flashback). At times, however, the inspiration appears to be 24 instead of Aristotle, especially given a couple of brief torture sequences. Despite Hill's avowedly anti-cinematic sensibilities, the result is an extremely "adaptable" novel with a stripped-down plot. There are no lengthy e-mails, no mock-heroic tales, no dialogues of the dead...just our omniscient narrator and the requisite unsavory villains.
Midnight Fugue is more thriller than mystery, especially because it fires one of Chekhov's guns rather early on (the second one doesn't go off until the end). Although Hill generally emphasizes characterization over plot, that's not the case here; the only character with much in the way of development is Dalziel, and even that's mostly development back to his usual self. Of the other series regulars, only Peter Pascoe gets any real page time (mostly being grouchy, to be honest). Wield crops up for a few pages, Hat Bowler puts his head in once, and Shirley Novello manages to get herself hospitalized again. Except for Ellie and Rosie Pascoe, significant others are nowhere to be seen. This time, the plot really is the focus. In other words, Midnight Fugue is much more of a conventional procedural than the recent entries in this series.