The Last Detective, published in 1991, was the first in a series of Peter Lovesey’s 15 murder mysteries featuring detective Peter Diamond. Earlier this year I read and reviewed the fifteenth, Down Among the Dead Men, which I enjoyed enough to send me back to the early days in the series.
A fiendishly clever murder mystery
The Last Detective begins like a traditional murder mystery but quickly veers off course into a series of puzzling discoveries. The plot is full of suspense. It’s no wonder Lovesey was encouraged to extend the series for so many years (nearly a quarter-century now).
The Last Detective (Peter Diamond #1) by Peter Lovesey @@@@ (4 out of 5)
An antihero for our times
Disgraced by a false charge of intimidating a suspect at New Scotland Yard, Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond has been sent to the sticks. He now holds forth, precariously, under continuing suspicion, from the Avon and Somerset Police; Diamond is based in the city of Bath in southwestern England.
Diamond is a large, fat man, and anything but jolly. He is, in fact, a thoroughly disagreeable person who strikes fear in his subordinates and intimidates most of the other people he comes into contact with. He distrusts computers and any information they disgorge, holds DNA testing in contempt, loathes cell phones, and disdains modern technology in general — and he makes these opinions known loudly and often. In short, Peter Diamond is a tough man to like. But there is hope for him still. His wife, Stephanie, clearly loves him, and he has a soft spot for children (though they have none of their own).
The man’s troublesome personality notwithstanding, Diamond is a brilliant detective who has solved four of the five cases that have come his way to date in Bath (the fourth is still unresolved).
The Last Detective consists of six parts. In the opening section, the author uses the third person to burrow into the heads of several characters and introduce our hero, Peter Diamond. The second part is told in the first person from the perspective of Gregory Jackman, head of the new English department at the local university. In the third section, Lovesey switches back to the omniscient third person. The fourth part is written in the first person from the point of view of the leading suspect in the murder case. Parts five and six shift back to the third person, describing Diamond’s perspective. The constant shifting back and forth is a trifle disorienting.
About the author
Peter Lovesey has been writing professionally since 1968. He published his first novel in 1970. In addition to the 15 Peter Diamond novels, Lovesey has written dozens of other novels and short stories. He was born in England in 1936.
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