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The Last Detective: Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond by Peter Lovesey
Review by Verna Suit
Soho Crime Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616950811
Date: 31 May 2011 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

This first Peter Diamond mystery, originally appearing in 1991 and reprinted in a new SOHO Crime edition, opens with the discovery of a dead woman's naked body floating in a lake. The victim is eventually identified as a former TV star now married to college professor Gregory Jackman. But neither the cause of death nor a motive for her murder is clear, giving police little to go on. Detective Superintendant Peter Diamond is a believer in real detective work, that is, identifying and questioning suspects rather than depending on forensic data gathered by technicians or computer scientists, so this is a case made to order for his unique skills.

More by Peter Lovesey:
Inspector Diamond:
* The Last Detective
* The Secret Hangman
* Skeleton Hill
* Stagestruck
Sergeant Cribb:
* Mad Hatter's Holiday
* Abracadaver
* Waxwork
Inspector Mallin:
* Headhunters

Large sections of this police procedural are devoted to statements by the two main suspects, Professor Jackman and the mother of a boy he saved from drowning. The reader thus has the same opportunity as Diamond to evaluate their stories. Details that come out offer promising leads, but nothing definitively proves either of them guilty. When an incident causes Diamond to be taken off the case, he resigns from the force in a rage and ultimately pursues the investigation on his own.

Like the rest of Lovesey's Peter Diamond books, The Last Detective takes place in Bath and is a celebration of that city. In this case, that includes an examination of the time author Jane Austen spent there. Professor Jackman is tasked with putting on a Jane Austen in Bath exhibit, which prompts the inclusion of lots of Jane trivia. Some new-found letters of hers even play a role in the murder plot.

One of Lovesey's strengths is depicting realistic characters complete with faults and personal tics. This includes Peter Diamond himself, overweight and prickly, but true to his principles and not afraid of suffering the consequences. The way he adapts to civilian life after he quits the force in anger is truly admirable. Throughout, he insists that the wrong person not be found guilty of the crime, and in the end, prevails. The Last Detective is an absorbing mystery by a proven master, but the ending leaves several loose threads that may prove maddening to readers who need firm closure.

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