“The Last Detective” by Peter Lovesey in the first in a series to feature Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond and was first published in 1991. Diamond is described the old-fashioned sort of gumshoe who still relies on “question and answer, doorstopping and deduction”. Diamond still prefers to trust his instincts about people over science and lab results. He basically has trouble changing with the times. I think this sort of depiction of detective work is a bit of a misnomer. Detectives of today still do a lot of door knocking and interviewing. I think depicting Diamond as come kind of a dinosaur is just a bit overblown.
In spite of some mild exasperation at a somewhat questionable impression Lovesey conveys about the progress in police investigations, I did still enjoy this novel. Diamond was a little gruff at times, which is fine, because I like a good curmudgeon in my protagonists. He also is a dogged and noble pursuer of the truth in spite of what it may cost him. This case costs him quite a bit. It will be interesting to see what personal and career choices come about in future installments.
A dead woman is found in a lake near Bath, somewhere in England. Forgive my lapse in geographical insight. Diamond learns the victim was an actress recently forced out of the soap opera in which she starred. Her husband is an English professor who may or may not be having an affair. At the center of this debacle are a couple missing letters purported to be written by one Jane Austen.
This is not exactly a new technique, but Lovesey will change into first person perspectives through quite a bit of the story here. I am not always a big fan of that sort of shift, but I didn’t mind it so much this time. Lovesey handles it pretty well.
Much of the elements seem rather standard for a British murder mystery, however there are some startling and compelling twists and turns. Superintendent Diamond is in for quite the ride, and this is only the first book in a rather lengthy series.
This is a series and character that should be looked up by fellow mystery readers. I certainly intend to try out a few more Lovesey works.
I will stay with the detective genre in my next little selection. In fact, this next one is quite a staple of mystery series. Nero Wolfe takes on three puzzlers with Rex Stout’s “Three Doors To Death”