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by Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime, June 2005
346 pages
ISBN: 1569473935

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There is no formula in Peter Lovesey novels, other than their beginning with some diverse opening in such a way that the reader is captivated almost at once. On the first page of UPON A DARK NIGHT, we meet a woman who suffers from a loss of memory. She has not lost her knowledge of the outside world, only of herself. Before we know it, we identify with her. She wants to know who she is and what happened to her. So do we.

Because we empathize so strongly with this woman, we willingly follow her around as she prosaically goes from hospital to social services hostel in a series of expected moves until suddenly the unexpected happens when strangers appear and try to control her.

Meanwhile Superintendent Peter Diamond, head of the murder squad in Bath, suffers from a lack of cases. There's a farmer who commits suicide with a shotgun, and a woman who falls to her death at a party attended mainly by strangers, but these do not appear to be murder cases, and thus they become the property of Diamond's rival, the lower-ranking CID chief inspector.

But Ada Shaftsbury, a resourceful social services charge of several hundredweight, changes all that. Our amnesiac woman, now called Rose for convenience sake, is assigned to room with Ada. Ada, whose demanding appetite is never assuaged no matter how much or what she eats, believes it is wrong to take things from individuals, but non-human entities, such as grocery stores, are fair game for her surprisingly light fingers.

Ada can be fierce in dealing with the poor police, but she has a soft heart for the underdog, and clearly Rose deserves her protection. When Rose disappears with a stranger who claims to be a relative, Ada starts making life miserable for Superintendent Diamond and company.

Diamond sniffs murder in the deaths of the farmer and the party-goer and forces his ample body into CID's tent. He forms a theory that treasure trove might be involved. Eventually Ada convinces him that Rose, too, has more than just a little to contribute to these cases. Although he blunders his way into non-productive side channels of this investigation, and unintentionally antagonizes his very bright assistant, Inspector Julie Hargreaves, Diamond self-corrects his ideas to bring on an exciting ending.

Probably the most noteworthy element of Peter Lovesey's stories is their uniformly high quality. His name on the cover of a crime novel is a seal that tells the book buyer the most important thing to know: This is going to be an unusually exciting top-notch read!

Reviewed by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, October 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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