Reading a novel by Peter Lovesey is rather like settling down to watch a favourite tv show or film, in good company and with a bottle of wine and box of chocolates within easy reach. You just know you are going to have a good time. So it is with his latest Peter Diamond novel, Skeleton Hill.
Lovesey never writes the same book twice, and this one is structured very differently from the last Diamond, The Secret Hangman. What both have in common is an intriguing and unusual motive for crime. Here, the motive strikes me as pretty much unguessable (or do I just mean that I didn’t come close to guessing it, even though I did figure out the culprit in good time?)
The basic set-up is that, during a Civil War re-enactment in Bath, a lecturer comes across a hidden bone. Someone was murdered, years ago. But then the lecturer goes missing, too. Diamond investigates, and along the way, we learn a great deal about the history of Bath, as well as something about the equine world.. It’s a pity that a map of Lansdown is not included by the publishers, as this would have helped readers to visualise the geography of key incidents, as well as chiming with the traditional mood of the story.
The build-up to the sequence of surprises and revelations that occur late in the story is elaborate and quite leisurely. My impression was that there was rather more about police procedure, and relationships within the investigating team, than in previous Diamond novels. The structure of the book means that, necessarily, the pace of the narrative is not as quick as in many Loveseys, but there is much pleasure to be gained from the author’s easy way with character and incident. I’m a confirmed Lovesey fan, and this rather unorthodox book from one of our leading detective novelists is another winner. Recommended.