The Last Detective

Peter Lovesey

The Last Detective introduces Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond. It's the first of a fine series.

 

A nude female floats dead in a large reservoir lake south of Bristol. To solve the "Lady of the Lake" mystery, and save a woman unjustly accused, Sussex Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond must find two missing letters attributed to Jane Austen, and defy his superiors.

 

Their first suspect is the victim’s husband, Professor Gregory “Greg” Jackman, a Professor of English at Bath University. He’s a very likely suspect too, since according to him, the marriage was not a happy one. What’s more, he claims that Gerry tried to murder him not long before she herself was killed. Some aspects of his alibi and the rest of his story are verified, but there are enough questions to keep him very much on a growing suspects list.

This is in many ways a police procedural. So readers follow along as evidence is collected and witnesses and suspects are interviewed. The solution to the mystery is logical, ‘though not obvious, and the motive makes sense. We also get an “inside look” at police politics as Diamond copes with the fallout from the earlier case that got him in trouble, the allegation that he used force on Matthew Didrikson, and the possibility that his assistant John Wigfull is a “company spy” whose job is to keep tabs on Diamond. Against that context one of the elements that run through this novel is the conflict between older and newer approaches to police work. Diamond considers himself the last true detective (hence the novel’s title). He believes that there is no substitute for a good search for evidence, using the information that witnesses and suspects give and other “legwork.” He has little patience with computer analyses and reports. In fact, pathologist Dr. Jack Merlin calls Diamond a “genuine gumshoe.” On the other hand, there is much to be said for modern DNA analysis and other developments of the computer era.

The Last Detective: Introducing Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond is a police procedural that features an old-fashioned cop, some interesting characters and a fascinating debate about approaches to solving a crime.

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

About Peter Lovesey:

Peter (Harmer) Lovesey (born 1936 in Whitton, Middlesex) is a British writer of historical and contemporary crime novels and short stories. His best-known series characters are Sergeant Cribb, a Victorian-era police detective based in London, and Peter Diamond, a modern-day police detective in Bath. Lovesey's novels and stories mainly fall into the category of entertaining puzzlers in the "Golden Age" tradition of mystery writing.

Most of Peter Lovesey's writing has been done under his own name. However, he did write three novels under the pen name Peter Lear.

Lovesey's novels and short stories have won him a number of awards, including both the Gold and Silver Daggers of the Crime Writers' Association, of which he was chairman in 1991/92. In 2000, he received the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement in crime writing.

The novel begins with the discovery of the body of an unidentified woman in Chew Valley Lake not far from Bristol. Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond of the Avon and Somerset Police and his assistant DI John Wigfull are assigned to the case. The first task is identifying the victim; after a few false leads, the police identify her as Geraldine “Gerry” Jackman, a former famous television actor who’s been out of the spotlight for a few years. It’s soon established that she probably didn’t die by drowning, so her death was not an accident. Now Diamond and Wigfull treat this case as a murder and begin to look into Gerry Jackman’s background, family life and friends to see who would have wanted to kill her.