12 February 2008

Favourite Authors- #1 Peter Lovesey

Do you have a favourite crime fiction author - one whose books you pick up knowing you'll probably love it.

Looking at my database (which only goes back just over 3 years) I'd have to say Peter Lovesey comes out tops.

I clearly remember the publication of WOBBLE TO DEATH back in 1970 and I've been hooked ever since.

I have listed 6 of his novels in the last 3 years and only one did not get a rating of 5.
They are listed below in the order in which I read them and the last one is the one that I didn't give a 5 to.
I'm just not sure that I wrote all the descriptions of the early ones (one or two may have come from book blurbs - I stopped doing that about 2 years ago).
But if you are looking for a cracking British author to read - you can't go wrong with Peter Lovesey.

Peter Diamond—the famous stout detective—has come down in the world since he rashly quit the police force. He's living in a London basement flat and bemoaning his fate: that one of the world's best homicide cops is considering a job as a nude artist's model. Then a murderer breaks out of jail, kidnaps a cop's daughter, and makes his ransom demand: he must speak to Peter Diamond at once.
His old bosses beg him to come back to Bath. All Diamond has to do is free the hostage, and he may be able to return to his old job. But the kidnapper, convicted of murdering a beautiful reporter whose mouth was filled with roses, insists he's innocent. Diamond's mission is to find the real killer. Now, with no clues and a cold trail, Diamond is in the rough, risking his future, his reputation, and perhaps his life to crack a nearly impossible case. This is just vintage Lovesey. Such easy reading but lots of good threads and red herrings.

Encouraged by his fourteen-year-old-daughter who recognises his lonely widowhood, Bob Naylor decides to join a writers' circle, believing he might gain some expert help with the poetry which keeps spilling out of his imagination. He discovers a motley collection of wannabe authors who he doubts he has anything in common with, but just as he is deciding not to formally join the group he learns that a publisher who addressed their last meeting has been killed and he stays to see what might develop. The Senior Investigating Officer, Henrietta Mallin, soon has all the members of the group under suspicion and, under pressure from her superiors, arrests their Chairman. Bob, the only writer who had not met the victim, is persuaded by other members of the group to do some investigating of his own. And that is when the trouble really starts, because another death turns the spotlight of suspicion on to him.

Skeletal remains are found in a cellar below Bath's Georgian tearooms. To Peter Diamond's delight they are not all of medieval origin, a radius proves to be only twenty years old and bears the marks of a sharp weapon. While a police team painstakingly sift through the cellar looking for the rest of the body, Diamond is distracted by the search for a missing American tourist, the wife of an English Professor who has been behaving very oddly. What Diamond doesn't know is that the professor believes he is on the point of locating the diaries of Mary Shelley written whilst in Bath finishing the manuscript of FRANKENSTEIN. Suspecting the professor of disposing of his wife but unable to prove anything, Diamond concentrates on trying to identify whose remains have been found in the cellar, and by solid old-fashioned detection he does so with shocking result. But before he can begin to work out who might have been the killer, the owner of the city's largest 'antique' emporium is found brutally murdered and the last person known to have seen her alive is the Professor.

#8 in the Peter Diamond series and one of Lovesey's best. "If you were planning a murder and wanted a place to carry it out, a beach would do nicely"" - so the first chapter begins. It is not until the tide begins to come in late on Sunday afternoon that the few remaining people on Wightview Sands, busily packing up their belongings, realise that the water is lapping the feet of the woman behind the blue beach shelter. So not only is the crime scene unable to be preserved, but no-one knows who the woman is. Trying to find out who she is leads SIO Mallin into collaboration with Peter Diamond, whose reputation precedes him, and they venture together into highly classified material. Don't worry if you haven't read any Lovesey before - this one will get you looking for more.

It is 3 years since Peter Diamond's wife was killed and he is being stalked by a woman who wants to become better acquainted. ACC Georgina Dalley's friend's daughter has gone missing . A woman's body is discovered hanging from a public playground swing, at first sight a suicide, but then it seems she may already have been dead when hung there. The discovery of a second body seems to signal that they have a ""hangman"" on the loose. Very very readable.

If the title in the context of crime fiction makes you think "grim reaper" then you are on the right track.
This is a macabre cosy if there is such a thing. A rompingly entertaining read, but not one of Lovesey's best.
Otis Joy, the rector of St. Bartholomew's in the Wiltshire village of Foxford, a young man in his late 20s, is a dynamic relative newcomer to the village. He seems everything a vicar needs to be, even if he is unmarried. Underneath though he is a very nasty bit of work indeed. Nobody believes lugubrious old Owen Cumberbatch when he says that the Rev. Joy's last parish is without its Sexton/bellringer because he crossed Otis Joy. Snooping old Skidmore simply disappeared.
But we do know from almost the first page of the story that Otis Joy is responsible for the death of the bishop, Marcus Glastonbury, who had found out that he had been embezzling funds at his previous parish (where the Sexton disappeared).
We learn also that he has come to an "arrangement" with his current Parish treasurer, Stanley Burrows, ex-headmaster, to have a private contingency fund which appears nowhere in the church's accounts. And then Stanley says he would like to hand the job over to a younger person, that he is getting too old, and the responsibility of the parish books is too great...
I think Peter Lovesey, one of my favourite authors, had great fun in writing this book. It is almost as if he decided to write a spoof on the village cosy. There are some really sardonic descriptions, almost cruel, of village personalities. One that comes to mind readily is Cynthia Haydenhall, Chair of the Women's Institute - my mental vision of her is of a dark haired strident Penelope Keith - who sees herself as the social hub of the village. And there are others..
This isn't going to exercise your little grey cells too much. But if you enjoy the occasional cosy, then hunt it down. In style it reminds me a bit of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series.


alice said...

Oooh great reads here, thanks so much!

Kerrie said...

New book : The Head Hunters due out in May


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