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DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN
by Peter Lovesey
Soho, July 2015
374 pages
$27.95
ISBN: 1616956267


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The Peter Diamond series has been a reliable provider of entertaining and inventive police procedurals along fairly traditional lines showing off the attractions of England's historical city, Bath. Lovesey continues providing an engrossing puzzle in the latest volume in the series, but takes his detective away from Bath and into a darker place.

The story begins with multiple moving parts: A petty criminal steals a BMW and, when the police stop him, they find something in the trunk of the car that implicates him in something that is far from a petty crime. Girls at a Sussex boarding school are pleased when the art teacher they loathed disappears and is replaced by an attractive young man, but one of the girls can't stop wondering what happened to the vanished woman. And Peter Diamond learns that his irritating boss, Georgina Dallymore, has been chosen to head up a highly sensitive investigation into police misconduct in another county, which would be wonderful news if she hadn't decided to take Diamond with her.

Gradually these three opening gambits begin to braid together. Diamond is distressed to discover that the mishandled investigation they are evaluating was conducted by a friend, Hen Mallin, who has been relieved of her duties after an anonymous informant revealed that she had failed to report that her niece's DNA was found in a car used to transport a murder victim. Diamond finds it hard to believe that Hen would deliberately suppress evidence, and he soon comes to the conclusion that he and his boss may be simply a useful distraction from an unusual string of missing persons cases. The trick will be guiding Georgina Dallymore's attention past the obvious when the infraction they've been asked to investigate seems open and shut.

One of the surprises of the story is the way that the bad-boss cliche is disassembled. Diamond is horrified by the prospect of working with his comically awful assistant chief constable, but when he suspects her own gullibility is being used against her, he has to find diplomatic ways to make her dig deeper which shows a side of her that Diamond grudgingly respects. While Lovesey, as usual, combines well-drawn characters, a nicely-calibrated dose of humor, and an intricate puzzle, this entry in the series is a bit more complex and a few shades darker than usual. It's an excellent entry in a consistently good series, one in which a complicated set of clues can lead to a triumphant solution, but the responding police sirens "sound like a lament."

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, June 2015

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