RogerBW's Blog

The House Sitter, Peter Lovesey 23 March 2015

2003 mystery, the eighth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. Is a killing on a beach connected with the murder of a celebrity film director?

The solid material here is the grind of police investigation, following up leads even though they're likely to be false simply because one has to cover everything. The book introduces Inspector Hen(rietta) Mallin of the Bognor Regis CID, a small joke in itself; this seems to be the genesis of a small spin-off series (two books so far), but as someone of equal status with Diamond and in a different police force she works well as a sounding-board and fellow investigator – rather than in the sidekick role formerly occupied by Julie Hargreaves. I'll be reading the first spin-off at least.

Because of that grind, the book starts very slowly: the identity of the victim on the beach isn't known for quite a while, and Peter Diamond himself doesn't show up until around a quarter of the way through. The narrative also comes over as a little old-fashioned; did techies still read computer magazines in 2003? I know I didn't. If as a policeman you have the name, sex, and approximate age of a child who may be germane to a murder enquiry, can't you just pester the education authorities or Benefits Agency for an address?

There are clues which can be put together, and plenty of false leads, but the real enjoyment I gained from this book was in the character of Diamond himself, recovering from a major incident (in the previous book) and working out how to go on with his life. Secondary characters are also good, especially the rest of the Bath CID team, though the most junior member is a bit too incompetent considering her past triumphs, and Diamond's boss and bane the ACC Georgina Dallymore is rather a cardboard cutout here.

The solution is rather too pat for my taste. There's some effort to explain how certain crucial information got into the hands of the villain(s), but it's neither convincing not sufficient. And the villain(s) is/are just not terribly interesting; obviously someone who commits murder isn't likely to be especially smart or well-adjusted, but to be a worthy subject of a mystery such a person has to be interesting. The various motivations and plots just don't seem to hang together, some of the bad behaviour is inconsistent with established character, and there's no explanation at all of how a certain piece of obscure local knowledge was gained. It was all a bit anticlimactic, and this is the first time I've been disappointed with the ending of a Lovesey book.

Followed in this series by The Secret Hangman.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:18pm on 23 March 2015

    I gave up reading computer magazines quite a few years before 2003. I date such things by what job I was in at the time.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:28pm on 23 March 2015

    I don't remember the date, but they were still making the transition from cover discs to cover CDs.

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