Monday, 2 November 2015

Down Among the Dead Men by Peter Lovesey - review

The publication of a new book by Peter Lovesey is always a cause for pleasure. I've been a fan of his work since I came across his Victorian mysteries when I was a student, and since then I've followed his career with a mixture of admiration and delight. There are so many highlights in his backlist that it's hard to pick favourites, but mine include the much-lauded The False Inspector Dew, On the Edge, Bertie and the Seven Bodies, and The Secret Hangman. A very varied group  of books, and I haven't even mentioned his brilliant short stories...

The Secret Hangman is an entry in the consistently excellent Peter Diamond series, and so is Peter's latest, Down Among the Dead Men, in which Diamond is reunited with an old acquaintance, Hen Mallin. One of the reasons why this long-running series remains so fresh is that Lovesey is constantly varying his approach. You never quite know what to expect, even though Diamond is a reassuring and likeable presence, and the blend of originality and familiarity works a treat. This is a strong entry in the series.

The first chapter is set seven years in the past. A car thief gets more than he bargained for when he nicks someone's motor, and something unexpected is found in the boot. We move rapidly to the present day, and a group of A Level students are introduced to their new art teacher, whom they instantly fancy. But what happened to his predecessor, who disappeared suddenly and without explanation?

The plot thickens as Diamond and his boss Georgina Dalloway are called in to investigate apparent serious misconduct on the part of a senior officer in another force. The case causes Diamond anguish for more than one reason, and in due course he and Georgina find themselves drawn into the mystery of the missing teacher. What's more, other people have been going missing as well...

Peter Lovesey possesses many talents as a writer, but to my mind one of his great gifts is that freshness of approach. It's easy, when writing traditional fiction, to remain in the comfort zone of formula, but Peter, like his good friends and contemporaries, the much-missed Reg Hill and Bob Barnard, has remained determined to keep trying something a little different, while making sure that his army of fans are supplied with enough ingredients to keep them satisfied, and hungry for his next story, whatever it may be.

7 comments:

R.T. said...

I confess that I reached a stumbling block with Wobble to Death (?) and could not bring myself to try another by the same author. It sounds as though I need to reconsider his work. Your posting is just the right persuasion.

Martin Edwards said...

You'll have gathered I'm a fan! And by the way, I finally tracked down your blog post!

Deb said...

I love the Peter Diamond and Hen Mallin books; I'm not a fan of the Inspector Dew books. If someone is looking for a place to start (and isn't worried about not starting from the beginning), I'd recommend A CIRCLE OF FRIENDS or THE HEADHUNTERS. Great stuff!

R.T. said...

Deb, your comment arrives just in time. I'll try to recover from Wobble to Death by going to your recommendations. Your enthusiasm and Martin's have persuaded me that I need to give Peter Lovesey another chance. Again, thanks from R.T. at http://thesimpleartofmurder.blogspot.com/

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Deb. I'd add that The Vault is great fun also. R.T., I am confident you won't be disappointed.

Clothes In Books said...

I'm a fan of Lovesey, nice to hear there's a new one to look for. I've enjoyed Diamond's career, despite the shocker that happened mid-series. And the False Inspector Dew is an all-time favourite.

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, Moira, it's a great story, I think, and one that will stand the test of time.