Saturday, May 11, 2013

Peter Lovesey: Worth a Look

Though not as well known as Colin Dexter 
or Reginald Hill, he’s just as good 

Peter Lovesey

     I first ran across Peter Lovesey’s name when I was checking out the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger of Daggers, given in 2005 to the top winner of the fifty previous Gold Dagger winners.  This would be the British equivalent to the Edgar Awards.  Lovesey’s The False Inspector Dew, which won in 1982, was one of the seven nominees.  John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the 1963 winner and one of the most significant novels in any genre of the past sixty-five
years, was awarded the Dagger of Daggers.  However, I had read the other nominees, but not Lovesey.  

     One of the back jacket quotes was from Ruth Rendell who said, “Absolutely riveting…wickedly clever…I defy anyone to foresee the outcome.”  I purchased it on Amazon because it wasn’t in our local mega-bookstores.  Rendell, as usual, was correct.  (She really is the Goddess of Suspense as Stephen King, God of Horror, and Patricia Cornwell, demi-Goddess of the Procedural, have also pointed out).  Inspector Dew takes off from how Dr. Crippen and Ethel le Neve were caught by Chief Inspector Walter Dew, which was through Marconi’s new wireless technology, in 1910 for Mrs. Crippen’s murder.  It’s set in 1921, involves a transatlantic crossing, a married dentist impersonating Inspector Dew, a young woman infatuated with the dentist, an onboard murder, and a
collection of characters that seem like they could be in a P.G. Wodehouse novel or Noël Coward play.  Nothing is quite what it seems and the eventual turn of events is genuinely surprising.  

Theatre Royal in Bath
     While in Louisville visiting Carmichael’s, I ran across Stagestruck from a couple of years ago, which is one of his Peter Diamond series of novels.  Set at the actual Theatre Royal in Bath, it’s about a revival of I Am A Camera that goes wrong on opening night and is then followed by a murder. 
Diamond is a tough nut, though really a diamond in the rough, akin to Reginald Hill’s Andy Dalziel or Colin Dexter’s Morse.  Lovesey doesn’t go on quite as long as Hill’s later books and he is fair in providing more information than Dexter ever does for the reader to have a shot at guessing the perpetrator’s identity.  Lovesey understands how the theatre actually works both artistically and commercially, onstage and, especially, backstage.  

Did someone mention Dexter?

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