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by Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime, June 2011
336 pages
ISBN: 156947947X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It has been twenty years since Peter Diamond made his first appearance (THE LAST DETECTIVE) and now he is back for the eleventh time. Bath's Theatre Royal is the venue for the action, a theatre that claims to be the most haunted in Britain. Two of its ghosts, the Grey Lady and The Painted Butterfly, make their appearance here, but it is not the supernatural that troubles Diamond. He has a theatre phobia (there may be a Greek term for this, but I don't know it), so when he is called to investigate an attack on a visiting artist, the rock singer Clarion Calhoun who is playing Sally Bowles in I AM A CAMERA, it takes an enormous effort for him even to enter the venerable Royal. And he has to keep going back, as further violence follows the assault on Clarion. Diamond has two mysteries to solve - who is behind the crimes and why is he afraid of theatres. In a brilliantly twisty plot, ingeniously clued but wholly fair, he does get to the bottom of both.

It is not simply the plotting, good as it is, that distinguishes this book. It is also very funny, especially in scenes involving a new and unwelcome addition to Bath CID, Sergeant Horatio Dawkins, AKA Fred. Dawkins' interviewing style is hilariously surreal and calculated to drive Diamond round the bend. Dawkins has been campaigning for a spot in CID for some time, and Diamond has been fending him off, but now the sergeant has found a protector in the ACC, Georgina Dallymore, and Diamond finds his team lumbered with him. Dawkins sounds at times as though he's wandered south from a Dalziel and Pascoe novel, and that's not a bad thing.

Lovesey, who turns 75 this year, has published more than thirty novels, series and stand-alones, since 1970 and is the recipient of a bucket-load of awards, including the CWA hat trick - Gold, Silver, and Diamond Daggers. With a resumé like that, he might be forgiven for doing what some of his younger and less accomplished fellow crime writers have done - phoning it in annually and taking it easy. Instead, in STAGESTRUCK, he's written what may be the most satisfying in the Diamond series since DIAMOND DUST.

§ Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, June 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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