Cover image of "Down Among the Dead Men," a good example of English mystery novels

It’s interesting to speculate whether the number of murders depicted in English mystery novels is greater than the number of murders actually recorded in the country. I suspect it’s a close call.

Peter Lovesey is one of the culprits in that caper. He is responsible for not one but two detective series plus a slew of other novels, short story collections, and a TV series, all of them focusing on how people die, and why. One of his signature series features Peter Diamond, a police detective operating in southwest England, not far from the Welsh border.

In Down Among the Dead Men, the fifteenth in the Peter Diamond series, our hero is a Detective Superintendent in the town of Bath. However, he doesn’t come into view until chapter five, about one-eighth of the way through the book. Before that point, we’re treated to the snarky dialogue of several eleventh-year girls (call them “students,” not “schoolgirls”) in a snooty private girls’ school located near Bath. The girls are abuzz with lust as a new art teacher takes over their class, a handsome young working artist who, truth be told, seems too good to be true.

Meanwhile, an inveterate car thief named Danny has finally succeeded in snatching the car of his dreams, a 3-Series BMW. His dreams shatter when he is stopped by the police on his way to have the license plates changed — and a dead body is discovered in the trunk. Naturally, Danny is charged with murder and unceremoniously shuttled off the prison for life.

Down Among the Dead Men (Peter Diamond #15) by Peter Lovesey (2015) 386 pages ★★★★☆

While all this is going on, Superintendent Diamond is thrashing about in hopes of catching a ring of jewel thieves who have been victimizing the nabobs of the area. Though he is eager to pursue the case, his extremely annoying boss, Assistant Chief Superintendent Georgina Dallymore, grabs him for what seems to be a fool’s errand to investigate misconduct in a police department in another part of England.

Naturally, since this is a mystery story, all these plot lines (save the jewel thieves) are related. The fun lies in finding out how — and in the strained relationship between Diamond and his self-important boss.

Down Among the Dead Men is a tolerably good detective novel, reasonably well written, and full of suspense. I may check out the earlier numbers in the series.

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