RogerBW's Blog

Skeleton Hill, Peter Lovesey 20 January 2016

2009 mystery, the tenth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. After a Civil War battle re-enactment on Lansdown Hill near Bath, one of the soldiers disappears. Later the police find a headless skeleton in the same area. Later still, a homeless man is found dead with a major head wound. Are the cases connected? DI Peter Diamond is determined that they are.

As usual there are plenty of false leads, and Lovesey plays fair with the reader. The mystery isn't especially challenging once all the data have been gathered (or at least I thought not), but this is a novel in the police procedural style so the gathering of data is an important part of the story, in particular the various interviews and other encounters with more or less cooperative suspects and witnesses.

Bath, the city, is back as a character here after a relatively light presence in the last couple of books. If you're going to set your detective series in a place people don't know well, you might as well use it, and Lovesey does, with the various locations on Lansdown such as Beckford's Tower and the racecourse.

Characterisation is rather lighter than usual, though it gets the job done; a group of local busybodies is treated as some sort of sinister organisation rather than the harmless cranks they'd be assumed to be in real life, and the ex-reporter DC Ingeborg Smith comes over suddenly horse-struck when she's never shown signs of it before.

There are Lovesey's usual lectures on interesting subjects, in this case mostly the Sealed Knot, and a lovely sequence looking up details of an obscure item of clothing. It does feel a little padded at times, and the pace can get quite slow, particularly in the early stages. This isn't a great book, but it's competently written (except for may/might misuse) and it neither excels nor disappoints.

Followed by Stagestruck.

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