Mystery Peter Lovesey The Vault

ISBN 13: 9781569472569

The Vault

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9781569472569: The Vault

A skeletal hand is unearthed in the vault under the Pump Room in Bath, England, near the site where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Then a skull is excavated. The bones came from different corpses, and one is modern. Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond must solve a series of crimes including murder and forgery, requiring a knowledge of history, nineteenth century art, literature . . . and human nature.

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Review:

Curmudgeonly Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond (The Last Detective, Bloodhounds, The Summons) is once again suffering fools (to which category he currently consigns Americans, antiques enthusiasts, and his immediate superiors) none too gladly. When a skeletal hand is found in the cellar of the abbey churchyard in Bath, Diamond is inclined to write the apparent crime off as the dusty wages of a long-forgotten sin. But then a skull turns up. And then Joe Dougan, mild-mannered American professor and avid literary tourist, unearths the startling fact that in the early 19th century that cellar belonged to the home Mary Shelley lived in as she was writing Frankenstein. Glorious fodder for the sensationally minded press and a monstrous headache for Diamond, who would prefer to cogitate upon the mystery in peace and quiet.

But it seems that the literary connection is as crucial as it is sensational. When Dougan's wife disappears and Peg Redbird, proprietress of the Noble and Nude antiques store, turns up dead after a heated conversation with the professor (in hot pursuit of Shelley's writing desk and sketchbook), Diamond has to wonder whether a thirst for knowledge also implies a thirst for blood. As Diamond immerses himself in Bath's cultural history, however, more and more suspects pop up, linking the long-dead bones in the cellar to Peg's very recent corpse. Author Peter Lovesey, with a nod and wink toward the conventions of traditional British mystery fiction, paints his characters with broad strokes: like the characters in a game of Clue, the suspects are easily labeled. Is it the spoiled heir who dunnit? What about the up-and-coming reporter? Or the cryptic puppeteer? Or (and this is really giving Diamond ulcers) the suave city councilor, who happens to be good friends with Diamond's boss? Lovesey tiptoes agilely just this side of caricature--and has a great deal of fun doing so.

Diamond himself is an enjoyable enough character, though his grouchiness seems to be missing some of the verve it had in earlier books. One might take issue with the novel's sense of pacing (at times funereal), and with Lovesey's narrative gimmick of switching occasionally to the murderer's perspective (too Gothic a trick for a relatively unexciting plot). These complaints, however, don't detract from an otherwise solid entry in the Superintendent Diamond series. --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

Peter Lovesey is the author of more than thirty highly praised mystery novels. He 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 West Sussex, England.
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