Monday, March 19, 2012

THE LAST DETECTIVE ... and others by Peter Lovesey

Several weeks ago one of my favorite magazine editors asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Peter Lovesey's forthcoming novel, Cop to Corpse. Yes, I said, provided I could do so from a position of ignorance--I had read none of the 11 other books in the series. OK, said the editor, but bear in mind that your readers will want to know "whether you felt motivated, by the time you’d finished this book, to go back to number 1 in the series."

Dear Reader, I'm having a hard time finding time to write the review. Not only did I feel motivated to go back to number 1, I've now also read numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8; number 9 is on my nightstand; and numbers 7, 10, and 11 are on hold at the library.

If you haven't yet met Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond of the Avon and Somerset CID, you have a lot to look forward to. Overweight ("burly," he'd rather phrase it), abrasive, sexist, impatient with standard procedures, he does not play well with others. But he is not a climber, is willing to admit his mistakes, and doggedly pursues the truth at whatever cost. Sort of like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, but not as noir.

Not noir at all, actually. These books are about 3/4 police procedural, 1/4 comic novel. For instance, here's how Lovesey introduces his famous sleuth in book 1, The Last Detective:
In the Bristol city mortuary a body lay on a steel trolley. In profile the swell of the stomach suggested nothing less than a mountainous landscape. Or to an imaginative eye it might have been evocative of a dinosaur lurking in a primeval swamp, except that a brown trilby hat of the sort seen in 1940s films rested on the hump. The body was clothed in a double-breasted suit much creased at the points of stress, gray in color, with a broad check design--well known in the Avon & Somerset Police as the working attire of Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond. His silver-fringed bald head was propped on a rubber sheet he had found folded on a shelf. He was breathing evenly.
I'll have more to say about the detective superintendent when I write the magazine review. Meanwhile, here's a chronological list of the dozen books in this series to date. You can begin with any of them, but book 1 is not a bad place to start.

Bath, U.K., where much of the action takes place
The Last Detective, 1991
Diamond Solitaire, 1992
The Summons, 1995
Bloodhounds, 1996
Upon a Dark Night, 1997
The Vault, 1999
Diamond Dust, 2002
The House Sitter, 2003
The Secret Hangman, 2007
Skeleton Hill, 2009
Stagestruck, 2011
Cop to Corpse, June 2012


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip! I haven't read these, but have now added them all to my Kindle. This will keep me busy for a few weeks!

Anonymous said...

To further complicate things, while tracking down this last detective, I ran across Dangerous Davies, The Last Detective of another series. Another whole scenerio, but a good one. So now there are two series calling for my time and attention. So many, so little time....