Conventional detective fiction features a brilliant investigator (who may or may not actually be a detective), a horrid crime that he or she is called on to solve (occasionally, by accident), and one or more really nasty people who will (whether or not they appear nasty at the outset) prove to be responsible for the crime. Along the way, the investigator is repeatedly thwarted, sometimes by circumstance, sometimes by design, and is frequently subjected to violent attack. And the story unfolds loosely observing the classical unities of action, place, and time (though often with flashbacks that violate dramatic unity). Diamond Solitaire, the second in Peter Lovesey’s series of novels featuring detective Peter Diamond, bears little resemblance to this model.
A different sort of detective novel, with a sumo wrestler on the cover
Confusion reigns as Diamond Solitaire gets underway. Having resigned in anger seven months ago as a Detective Chief Inspector from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary in southwest England, Peter Diamond, now forty-eight, is eking out a living as a nighttime security guard at Harrods department store in London. When an alarm goes off on an upper floor indicating an intruder is in the building, Diamond discovers what appears to be a seven- or eight-year-old Japanese girl hiding among the furniture display. She remains mute in the face of his questions, and repeated efforts to identify the girl or locate her parents are fruitless.
Diamond Solitaire (Peter Diamond #2) by Peter Lovesey @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Intrigued, and looking for something to keep himself from going mad, Diamond volunteers to work at a school for disabled children where the girl has been sent, diagnosed as autistic. In the main strand of the plot, Diamond goes to great lengths to identify the girl, eventually with the assistance of a famous sumo wrestler. Diamond himself is fat, and he proves to be less than consistently brilliant as the story unfolds — first in London, then in New York, and finally in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, in Italy, a pharmaceutical plant has burned to the ground. In New York, the aging founder and chairman of the company that owns the plant is preparing to step down in favor of his feckless son, who is far more interested in filmmaking than in pharmaceuticals.
Somehow, if Diamond Solitaire is to work, all these diverse characters and seemingly unconnected events and locations must converge. But convergence is a long time coming, and the story is suspenseful and fascinating all along the way. The novel is full of surprises, but none of them appear to arise through the sort of crude manipulation so common in the genre.
About the author
Peter Lovesey is a fascinating character in his own right. In addition to his career as a detective novelist who has produced numerous other works of fiction in addition to the sixteen Peter Diamond books, he is an expert on the history of track and field and, according to the biography appended to Diamond Solitaire, “a mainstay of the International Society of Olympic Historians.”
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