Dealing with the forced assistance of a Philip Marlowe-wannabe private eye, detective Peter Diamond investigates after a Bath antiques dealer disappears and a dead body is discovered in his store in the latest novel of the series following The Finisher.
Peter Lovesey is the author of more than forty highly praised mystery novels. He has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America and has been awarded the CWA Gold and Silver Daggers, the Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement, the Strand Magazine Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards, and many other honors. He lives in Shrewsbury, England.
*Starred Review* Glory be! British crime novelist Lovesey is back, bringing along his beloved series hero, the grumpy, darkly funny, and-beneath it all-strictly business Peter Diamond, detective inspector with the Bath constabulary. It's all here: mystery, sparky writing, and a cast of characters who come alive on the page, moving through a tricky plot that we know is playing us for suckers. And we love it. This time the action is triggered by a break-in at an antique shop. It has to do with the owner's recent acquisition of an action painting-that is, globs of paint smeared on a canvas in the manner of Jackson Pollock. Then Lovesey springs a ringer. He introduces Johnny Getz, a self-described gumshoe and suddenly a first-person narrator, carrying chunks of the novel on his own. He has a head full of book and movie PIs and would love to be them. Especially Travis McGee, for his ability to cheer unhappy women with his, um, magic wand. Diamond can't stand him. Their feuding almost overshadows the plot of this delightful novel. Then we learn the secret of that messy canvas. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.
Move over, Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond. The Avon and Somerset CID is about to be joined, jostled, and decentered by two other parties interested in an otherwise ordinary burglary. Just because Johnny Getz-probably not his real name-is a private eye doesn't mean he doesn't think Pete, as he insists on calling Diamond, should work with him. Johnny's client, fashion designer Ruby Hubbard, is worried sick because her father, Septimus Hubbard, has been missing ever since his antiques shop was robbed. Ruby can't even get access to the storefront to find out what's missing and what clues to his whereabouts Seppy might have left behind. Diamond reluctantly agrees to let Ruby look over the place and share a bit of information with Johnny, and in no time at all there are dramatic new developments: During their preliminary search of the shop, Ruby finds a stranger's corpse neatly laid out in an Egyptian coffin, and then Ruby herself is shot and ends up in the hospital. Diamond, meanwhile, has to contend with a second interloper of a very different stripe: Lady Virginia Bede, a much-married, archly seductive lay member of the ethics committee who attaches herself to his investigation as a sixth wheel. The search for Seppy and what looks more and more like an exceptionally valuable painting he'd purchased from buyers who hadn't a clue what they were selling would be routine, at least by Lovesey's high standards, if Johnny didn't keep interrupting the flow of the procedural with first-person chapters in his own pungent style, floridly reminiscent of the fictional American shamuses he clearly wishes he were one of. A mundane plot juiced by those unwelcome hangers-on. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
"Mind if I join you?"
Peter Diamond's toes curled.
There's no escape when you're wedged into your favourite armchair in the corner of the lounge bar at the Francis observing the last rites of an exhausting week keeping a cap on crime. Tankard in hand, your third pint an inch from your mouth, you want to be left alone.
The stranger's voice was throaty, the accent faux American from a grainy black-and-white film a lifetime ago. This Bogart impersonator was plainly as English as a cricket bat. His face wasn't Bogart's and he wasn't talking through tobacco smoke, but he held a cocktail stick between two fingers as if it was a cigarette. Some years the wrong side of forty, he was dressed in a pale grey suit and floral shirt open at the neck to display a miniature magnifying glass on a leather cord.
"Depends," Diamond said.
"Should I know you?"
"No reason you should, bud."
No one called Diamond "bud." He'd have said so, but the soundtrack had already moved on.
"I got your number. You're the top gumshoe in this one-horse town and you're here in the bar Friday nights
when you're not tied up on a case. What's your poison? I'll get you another."
"Don't bother." Diamond wasn't being suckered into getting lumbered with a bar-room bore who called him bud and claimed to have got his number.
"You'll need something strong when you hear what I have to say." The bore pulled up a chair and the voice became even more husky. "Good to meet you, any road. I'm Johnny Getz, the private eye."
"Say that again, the last part."
Against all the evidence that this was a send-up, Diamond had to hear more. "Private eye? I thought they went out with Dick Tracy."
"Dick Tracy was a cop."
"Sam Spade, then. We're talking private detectives, are we? I didn't know we had one in Bath."
"What do you mean-'one'? I could name at least six others. The difference is they're corporate. I'm the real deal. I work alone."
"Over the hairdresser's in Kingsmead Square." An address that lacked something compared to a seedy San Francisco side street, which was probably why the self-styled PI added, "The Shear Amazing Sleuth. Like it?"
There was a pause while the conflict in Diamond's head-contempt battling with curiosity-raged and was resolved. "What did you say your name is?"
"How do you spell that?"
"Getz? With a zee."
Diamond sighed. "Is it real?"
"Sure. You heard of Stan Getz?"
"The jazz musician. You're not related?"
"I should be so lucky."
"It was his real name as far as I know," Diamond said. "Is yours your own?"
A shake of the head. "In my line of work, you gotta make a noise in the world."
"You play the sax yourself?"
"Nah. I'm talking publicity." He took a business card from his pocket and snapped it on the table like the ace of trumps. "Johnny Getz. Getz results. How does that grab you?"
Diamond had a pained look, and not from being grabbed. "What do you want with me, Mr. Getz?"
"Johnny to you."
"Mr. Getz. I keep first names for my friends."
Johnny Getz took a moment to reflect on that. He refused to take it as a putdown. "What do I want? I want your help with a case."
"Don't even start," Diamond said, seizing his chance to end this. "I'm a police officer. We don't get involved outside our work."
"This is your work. It's got your name all over it."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Police, do not cross. The break-in at the antiques shop in Walcot Street last Sunday night. The owner is away. You know about this?"
"I don't hear about every crime that happens on my patch."
"The cops have sealed the place."
"If it's a crime scene, they would."
"Fair enough, except I need to see inside."
"My client wants to know what was taken."
"And who is your client?"
"The owner's daughter."
"Has she spoken to anyone?"
"Several times. Your people tell her jack shit. They say they want to deal with her father."
"That's understandable if he's the owner. Where is he?"
"Nobody knows. The best guess is he's buying more stock. From time to time he gets wind of a house clearance, hangs the 'closed' sign on the door and goes looking for bargains."
"No one else runs the shop while he's away?"
"He wouldn't let the Bishop of Bath run it."
"One of those."
"You got it."
"Why isn't the daughter content to wait until he gets back?"
"You want the truth? She doesn't trust cops."
"Careful what you say, Mr. Getz."
"I'm telling you why she hired me. She hasn't a clue how much was stolen. Not all of you are angels. Some are light-fingered and if it isn't a cop who walks out with a valuable item, it could be a scene-of-crime person. Who's to know if the thief took it?"
"I've heard enough of this horseshit."
"I'm accusing nobody. I'm telling you what's on my client's mind. The longer this goes on, the bigger the suspicion."
"The owner could be back today or tomorrow. He'll know what's been taken, I presume."
"Sure-but he won't know who took it."
"Neither will you, for that matter. There's more to this. Who reported the break-in?"
"My client. She came past the shop, saw it was closed, checked the door and found it had been jemmied, the wood splintered around the lock. She reported it right away."
"This was when?"
"Monday afternoon. Two thirty-five."
"She didn't go inside?"
Getz shook his head. "She didn't know if the perp was still in the shop."
"She'd heard nothing from her father about going away?"
"He wouldn't have told her. He's like that."
"I'll tell you something for nothing," Diamond said. "I've known cases where the thief turns out to have been the
person who reported the crime."
"Now you're slandering my client."
"You slandered the police. And here's something else for you to get your head around. The break-in may never
Getz frowned and fingered his silver magnifier.
"The damage to the door could be a con, done by her father to defraud his insurance company. That happens."
"We don't know if he was insured."
"Find out, Mr. Getz. Tell your client to quit racing her motor and leave us to do our job."
A pious hope, but it ended the exchange and allowed Diamond to finish his drink.