It was a long time ago when I last read something by Peter Lovesey. In fact, I’d completely forgotten that I’d read and reviewed The False Inspector Dew, which, to the chagrin of its many fans, I was rather non-plussed by. And then, to make up for that, I read Bloodhounds, Lovesey’s tribute to John Dickson Carr, featuring his series character Peter Diamond, which I enjoyed a lot more.
So, looking around for some things to add to my Kindle for my recent trip to Lanzarote, I came across the latest paperback featuring Diamond, which I’d heard good things about, so I figured, why not?
At the Theatre Royal, Bath, it is the opening night of I Am A Camera (the play that Cabaret is based on) and Clarion Calhoun, a fading pop-star sees the role of Sally Bowles as a way of being treated as a serious actress. But on opening night, before uttering a word, her make-up inexplicably causes serious burns to her face – it has been laced with sodium hydroxide. When her make-up artist then commits suicide, it looks like everything is explained – but why did the alkali take so long to start burning her face? Enter Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond – if he can manage to make his way into the theatre…Hmm… a bit of a mixture this one. It’s an entertaining enough read, although Lovesey does try the patience of the reader in the opening half before foul play is actually established. There’s a long section relating to the delay in the burns occurring where it basically goes:
- State theory
- Dismiss theory
It is enlivened by the introduction of the somewhat irritating Sergeant Dawkins, determined to wheedle his way into CID and out of uniform – there is some nice comedy with the personality clashes with the somewhat grumpy Diamond.
Things pick up as some of the story becomes clearer and we head towards the conclusion which is… a little on the surprising side. Yes, there is a brief clue that indicates the killer, but to be honest, the motive’s pretty weak and rather unbelievable. But if you can put that to one side, it’s an exciting finale and it is a good surprise.
On the down side, there is a side-plot concerning Diamond’s fear of theatres which has some interesting elements, but has a disappointingly dull conclusion.
So, overall, it’s a perfectly good read, but not a classic – I think Bloodhounds is much better – but it certainly hasn’t put me off spending some time with Peter Diamond in the future.