In the course of his long and award-garlanded career, Peter Lovesey has written no fewer than four series of detective novels, all of them highly enjoyable, as well as a number of stand-alone novels and five collections of short stories. He is another of those crime writers I admired for years before he became, to my great delight, a friend. As with a good many other people - Reg Hill, Bob Barnard and Frances Fyfield are examples - I found that he is as charming, and generous, in person as he is wonderful to read.
In recent times, he has focused mainly on books featuring the appealing Bath-based cop Peter Diamond. Stagestruck, his latest entry in the series, the eleventh, I'm glad to report, is well up to standard.
The setting is the Theatre Royal in Bath, and the story opens with a dramatic misfortune suffered by Clarion Calhoun, a fading pop star who has taken the chance to re-launch her acting career in I Am a Camera. I’ve never seen the play, though I have heard of one famous review: ‘Me no Leica!’ Clarion’s face is scarred and it seems that the dresser who was in charge of her make-up may have been responsible.
When the dresser goes missing, and is subsequently found dead in the theatre , one possibility is that she has committed suicide out of remorse. But Peter Diamond is not convinced, and before long, the plot thickens. While investigating the case, Diamond also has to confront a hidden and disturbing secret from his own past, with ultimately a very unexpected outcome.
The solution to the main puzzle had me fooled, and the book as a whole is excellent light entertainment. I’m tempted to write a separate post, inspired by Peter Lovesey’s skill, on the art of planting clues in detective stories. Here he does it very cleverly indeed.