RogerBW's Blog

The Vault, Peter Lovesey 21 January 2014

The Vault is the sixth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. I'm definitely liking Lovesey: like any good author of detective fiction, he plays fair with the reader, giving all the necessary clues while hiding them under a chaff-screen of red herrings and misdirection. While it's dressed as a police procedural, this is puzzle-solving detective fiction in the traditional mould.

The setup is a pleasing one: in Bath, human remains are discovered during excavation works near the Roman Baths. The vault where they're found turns out to have been the cellar of the house where Mary Shelley did most of the writing of Frankenstein, and this engenders media interest. Meanwhile an American professor on holiday reckons he's got hold of Mary Shelley's copy of the poems of Milton, and tries to trace back where they came from. And in a house clearance, two watercolours surface, in the style of and possibly by William Blake...

Unfortunately I've got to the point where I can often solve mysteries in the classical style by looking at the narrative role of a character: why was he introduced just then? Why is this relatively unimportant person in the detective's life being given such a lot of on-stage time and authorial attention? Why did this gap in his alibi get skated over, while that perfect alibi for a different occasion was dwelt on at length by the narrator?

I was, therefore, not surprised by the solution of the mystery, though I was still agreeably misdirected by a minor character's claim turning out, much to my surprise, to have been the truth.

All right, as with Thankless in Death there are brief moments from the villain's viewpoint: but at least here all we get is some idea of how he thinks of himself, rather than actual clues to his identity. Similarly we occasionally depart from Diamond to follow other characters' viewpoints, which gives us rather more information than Diamond has -- but at least, once he gets it, he acts on it.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Thankless in Death, J. D. Robb

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