On Beulah Height (Dalziel & Pascoe #17) On Beulah Height discussion


48 views
More About the Ending

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Susan (last edited May 13, 2018 08:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan I recently posted a question about this intriguing novel and then promptly answered it for myself - maybe. I’d love to know what others think because I’m deeply suspicious that I may have been a bit thick not to have “twigged this” earlier. Here goes [mega spoilers ahead]:
Whodunnit: Betsy committed the original three crimes. The solution the police came up with was wrong! The suspicious reader has suspected Betsy all along but the police won’t “go there” because it’s just too awful to contemplate.
Clues: So, so many! In no particular order, let’s start with
- the novel’s central theme of fathers’ devotion to protecting their daughters (Betsy’s dad was even prepared to cover up her “mistakes/murders”)
- Betsy’s general unloveability and obvious self-centred/sociopathic nature as an adult. Betsy was generally regarded as a plain, precocious, unpleasant little girl; her parents seemed to have trouble interacting with her; her Aunt resisted taking her in when orphaned, and admitted she had trouble loving Betsy.
- Betsy could easily have been the last to see each of the 3 girls alive. We only have her word for where she was and what happened. She has no alibis.
- We also know that Betsy is a liar because of the false account she originally gave about escaping the clutches of poor Benny.
- Betsy’s mum and dad are both so troubled that they commit suicide one after the other (or at least dad does; mum could have been killed by Betsy). Remember, Betsy has killed her own cousin now and mum may have known or guessed and couldn’t live with it, or couldn’t keep it secret any longer. Maybe Dad, having lost his wife and covered up his daughter’s murders, couldn’t bear the secret agony and guilt any longer. Imagine living with a devil-child who could turn on you any minute but for whom you have a visceral parental drive to love and protect.
- prior to the ending, we have no reason to suspect Betsy’s dad of being any danger to anyone, and certainly not children. Ignoring Betsy’s accounts, he comes across as a dour, dutiful Yorkshire farmer, a loyal husband, and a stern but fair parent. He is the stereotype of the sort of man who takes his responsibilities and commitments very seriously. The sort to protect his own, no matter what.
- Betsy, even in her own accounts, can’t hide the fact she is jealous of the lithe and pretty little blond haired girls (those who disappeared). In particular she envies her doted-upon cousin with glamourous parents and comfortable life-style. Wishing you had someone else’s life is one thing, but Betsy actually takes her cousin’s place.
- Notice how at the end of the book, Betsy doesn’t tell the police what happened. They fill in all the blanks themselves and she just plays along as sad, traumatised little girl.
- I’ve got more, but I’ll leave my list here for now, except to say - biggest clue (and spoiler) of all - this is not the only time that Hill has had the police get it wrong! (it was in a later novel than ‘On Beulah Height’; keen Hill fans will know what I’m referring to here.)

Please let me know if I’m on the right track. I’d love to hear from anyone with an opinion on the subject.
Happy reading!


message 2: by Tod (new)

Tod I'm with you on this. I've just finished the book and though I feel it is superbly written and holds my interest right through, I just dont get the ending at all. Who killed the three girls? Betsy's dad? Betsy? We are never told! It is implied the bodies are buried on the Height but if B's dad did this how would B know he had? And it is implied by the lyrics of the songs that B did know. If Betsy did them in how would she have got the bodies up there as a 7 year old kid?!

I'm not a great reader of crime fiction and only read this because Val McDiarmid recommended it as the perfect whodunnit in a recent Guardian article. So it may well be I am being obtuse because I dont sufficiently understand the tropes of the genre and have missed something. Perhaps there is no resolution at all and Hill wants us to make up our own mind about the perp? After all we never find out if the bodies are buried on the Height. It may just be that Betsy has imagined they are and her dad's involvement...........

I recently read Picnic at Hanging Rock - where three girls also disappear and there is no resolution to that story either - at least in the discovery of a perp sense. So maybe I am being a pedant here. Does there have to be a perp? Isnt it sufficient just to enjoy the police procedural mystery, gender politics et al and the minute exploration of the psychology of grief and loss?

If Val Mac reads this perhaps she would be kind enough to give us her view.......?


message 3: by Susan (last edited Jul 05, 2018 12:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan Tod wrote: "I'm with you on this. I've just finished the book and though I feel it is superbly written and holds my interest right through, I just dont get the ending at all. Who killed the three girls? Betsy'...If Betsy did them in how would she have got the bodies up there as a 7 year old kid?!

I think Betsy killed the girls and her dad covered-up for her by hiding the bodies.

This cover is interesting too. Just look at the image on the front of this edition of the book On Beulah Height (Dalziel & Pascoe #17) by Reginald Hill . The girl (Betsy?) looks incredibly sinister.


Greg Hi - posted this on the other discussion on this book and thought I'd put it here also to help in this discussion. My take after several readins: Jack Allgood (Betsy's dad) was the culprit for the deaths of the first 3 girls. He committed suicide (drowned himself with a pocket full of rocks) and Betsy/Elizabeth's mother also killed herself (that's how Betsy/Elizabeth came to be an orphan and adopted by the Wulfstans). This all happened before we get to Lorraine's disappearance. Lorraine was accidentally killed by Walter Wulfstan and hidden inside her little secret den on the fellside. The 3 girls killed earlier (before the drowning of Dendale) were hidden up on Beulah Height. That was the significance of the CD cover illustration that was actually a map of Dendale: the sunshine and musical notes are coming out of the "mouth" which is also Beulah Height, where the dead girls are buried. That was Elizabeth Wulfstan's secret: she knew her dad (Jack Allgood) had killed those girls and where he'd hidden them. Pascoe's references to her tomboyish appearance and haircut as a little girl (when she was called Betsy Allgood) were hints that her mother knew that her husband was a pedophile and was trying to keep him away from Betsy. So you have it backwards...the dad killed the girls and Elizabeth covered it up. Hope this helps!


Greg Hi - posted this on the other discussion on this book and thought I'd put it here also to help in this discussion. My take after several readins: Jack Allgood (Betsy's dad) was the culprit for the deaths of the first 3 girls. He committed suicide (drowned himself with a pocket full of rocks) and Betsy/Elizabeth's mother also killed herself (that's how Betsy/Elizabeth came to be an orphan and adopted by the Wulfstans). This all happened before we get to Lorraine's disappearance. Lorraine was accidentally killed by Walter Wulfstan and hidden inside her little secret den on the fellside. The 3 girls killed earlier (before the drowning of Dendale) were hidden up on Beulah Height. That was the significance of the CD cover illustration that was actually a map of Dendale: the sunshine and musical notes are coming out of the "mouth" which is also Beulah Height, where the dead girls are buried. That was Elizabeth Wulfstan's secret: she knew her dad (Jack Allgood) had killed those girls and where he'd hidden them. Pascoe's references to her tomboyish appearance and haircut as a little girl (when she was called Betsy Allgood) were hints that her mother knew that her husband was a pedophile and was trying to keep him away from Betsy. So you have it backwards...the dad killed the girls and Elizabeth covered it up. Hope this helps!


Susan Greg wrote: "Hi - posted this on the other discussion on this book and thought I'd put it here also to help in this discussion. My take after several readins: Jack Allgood (Betsy's dad) was the culprit for the ..."

Hi Greg. You have exactly described the case as the police see it. I completely agree with you there. My assertion, however, is that the police are wrong! What actually, truly happened is still a mystery to every living soul except Betsy/Elizabeth, the cold-hearted killer.


Greg Very interesting. Any idea how the Betsy/Elizabeth got the bodies up to Beulah height? Or do you think she killed them there? So perhaps Betsy/Elizabeth was jealous of the other little girls because her dad paid them so much attention and she killed them. Is that the motive you had in mind?


message 8: by Susan (last edited Nov 28, 2018 02:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan It's been a few months since I read the book, Greg, so I'm a bit 'rusty' on the fine details but - as I said above - my theory is that Betsy killed the first three girls (when she was a child herself) and her dad dealt with the 'evidence' by burying the bodies up in the fold on the Height (where the police find them at the end of the book). He was covering for her because she was his responsibility, but it destroyed him in the end, hence the suicide. Remember, the last of the three to die was Betsy's own cousin! Initially Dad might have been able to convince himself that Betsy had 'made a mistake'/'accidentally gone too far'/ 'would never do such a thing again', but after three murders he is unlikely to have had much remaining faith in Betsy's redeemability. His own complicity in concealing her guilt - enabling her to murder again, and again - would have been a heavy weight to bear.

On your second point, there's actually no real evidence that Betsy's dad is a paedophile; the only reason he's suspected of being sexually interested in children, is because he is (falsely) believed to have kidnapped and killed little three pretty little girls. I think the tomboy haircut and clothes thing is a 'red herring' (and a huge irony); Betsy was a 'farm kid' who liked to get mucky so her Mum probably clothed her with practicality in mind, anyway. But, with a predator running about murdering little girls, Mum may have been inclined to dress her 'down' even more. Betsy used to roam freely around the countryside near the farm, making her rather 'vulnerable'.

I hope this helps make more sense of my thinking. Thanks for engaging on this: great discussion! I really like thinking about this book; the characters are so very complex and the ambiguities and puzzles of it are an ongoing source of interest.


message 9: by Janna (last edited Jan 01, 2019 02:23AM) (new) - added it

Janna Marie I'm so glad that Susan and others have opened a discussion about the disappearance of the 3 little girls. Because I skipped bits I thought I must have missed something important. I couldn't believe I'd got through over 500 pages and there was no apparent resolution to the mystery, Why did no one discover the bodies? Where were the bodies concealed? Where were they buried? The evidence that Jack Allgood or Elizabeth Wulfstan (aka Betsy Allgood) were the killlers, while ingenious, doesn't seem plausible.

I felt cheated that the author didn't choose to tie up the loose ends, which is one reason why murder mysteries are so satisfying and so unlike the real world.

This is the first Dalziel and Pascoe mystery I have read. I disliked the characters, finding Dalziel's hectoring and rudeness unpleasant, and Pascoe's rambling introspections boring. To my mind, there was far too much padding - I could have done without the translation of the Kindertodenlieder, the fable of the Nix, and Pascoe's vision of the children emerging from the Fell, for example. to my mind, the whole narrative lacked pace an shape.

This book got many 5 star reviews but I'm sorry to say I was very disappointed.


message 10: by Mark (new)

Mark Carey I like Hill's books but this left me irritated. Whodunit? I don't know. I'm not going to read it again to find out. All red herrings and no cigar.


back to top