Stagestruck: A Peter Diamond Investigation
by Peter Lovesey
Cover Artist: Photo: Mihaela Ninic, World of Stock.
Review by Verna Suit
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569479476
Date: 14 June 2011 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Pop singer Clarion Calhoun has top billing in a play at the Royal Theater in Bath. But on opening night, shortly after her first entrance on stage, her face starts burning up and she rushes off. Acid in the face powder is the culprit. Everyone assumes Denise the makeup girl had some grudge against Clarion and sabotaged her. Then when Denise is found dead up in the rafters, people assume she regretted her rash actions and killed herself out of guilt.
Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, head of Bath CID, is not quick to assume anything, especially such a convenient suicide story. He's on the case almost as soon as Clarion leaves the stage. But he's hampered in his investigation by a theater phobia that dates back to his childhood. He panics as soon as he is confronted with a stage. He doesn't understand where this fear came from and is bothered that it gets in the way of his work. So while he tries to figure out who really harmed Clarion and why, and what really happened to Denise, he also tries to get to the root of his irrational fear.
The play that Clarion was supposed to have starred in is Isherwood's I Am a Camera, which later became the musical Cabaret. It goes on as planned, with Clarion's understudy (who has now been bumped up to the lead) making a reasonable murder suspect. Behind-the-scenes details on both play production and general theater operation provide fascinating reading. Charming descriptions of local sights in Bath reveal author Lovesey's affection for the city that he calls the most beautiful in England if not the world, and which he also calls home.
Stagestruck is the 11th police procedural in the Peter Diamond series and it finds Lovesey at the top of his form. Peter Diamond is still prickly, but perhaps his relationship with his good friend/lover Paloma Kean has mellowed him a bit. He's surprisingly tolerant of the exasperating Sgt. Dawkins, who has been foisted upon him and adds comic relief to the serious matter of murder. The murder mystery is solid: eventually two strange deaths with no clear motives, and a murderer whose identity comes as a surprise. All in all, Stagestruck is a very enjoyable read and gets four stars.