January 03, 2005

Bloodhounds, by Peter Lovesey

In this book we find Peter Lovesey's irascible yet big-hearted detective, Peter Diamond, in an amusing yet silly book that's a cross between a police procedural and a puzzle mystery from the golden age of Christie, Allingham, and Marsh. It concerns a small literary group that meets periodically in the crypt of the church of St. Michael with St. Paul in the city of Bath to discuss murder mysteries--or, as they prefer to say, "crime fiction." The group's name is "The Bloodhounds of Bath", and its members are a delightful group of eccentrics.

There's the snobbish and very proper Miss Chilmark, whose ancestors have lived in the vicinity of Bath for five-hundred years, and who believes that Eco's The Name of the Rose is the pinnacle of the art. There's Milo, an older bachelor of the tweedy variety, who delights in the puzzle mystery. There's Jessica the art gallery owner, who specializes in female investigators. There's Rupert the repulsive, a decayed intellectual who delights in stirring things up and claims the group should read nothing but true crime. There's quiet Sid, a John Dickson Carr fan, who suffers from painful shyness and comes to the group on the advice of his therapist. And finally there's Shirley-Ann, newcomer to the group and to Bath, who has read almost every mystery ever published and has them all on-tap in her head.

And then a famous stamp is stolen from a Bath museum...and then reappears under mysterious circumstances. Clearly, it's time for the Bloodhounds to figure whodunnit. And then one of the Bloodhounds is murdered--and the body is found in a locked room. There's only one key, and its owner has an iron-clad alibi--he was at the police station throughout the time in question, and he had the key with him.

And in steps Peter Diamond, in best police-procedural fashion, to catch the murderer, and the conventions begin to run together a bit.... And if you think Lovesey had a lot of fun blending the two styles together, you're right. In fact, I'd been a little disappointed by the ending; but now that I think about it, given the problem Lovesey set himself the murderer could have been no one else. Nice, very nice.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 3, 2005 06:53 PM