Skeleton Hill: An Inspector Peter Diamond Investigation Hardcover
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Peter Diamond is a big man - overweight, unfit, funny and irascible by turns, and totally consumed by his job. A demanding boss, he assumes everybody wants to work as hard as he does. Oddly enough for a man who's often in a rush, he likes to drive slow (even old ladies pass him). He's put off by technology but not above using it. In this book he's painfully learning to use his cell phone.
The focus of the action is Lansdown, a hill near Bath where the Roundheads fought the Cavaliers in 1643. The locals periodically re-enact the battle in historic costumes for enthusiastic audiences. During the latest re-enactment, two Cavaliers sneak off to have a few beers under an ancient fallen oak. Some cans are missing, and digging around in search of them, the men find a human femur. Finally they re-bury it out of respect, assuming it's a combatant killed centuries ago.
But in fact the skeleton is no more than 20 years old - and headless. That gets the police to wondering. And when one of the Cavaliers who found the skeleton is murdered, Peter Diamond suspects that the two deaths must be linked.
There are lots of eccentric characters in the story, and interesting glimpses of the sex trade and the aristocratic horseracing scene. The mystery is solved by putting a hundred bits and pieces of information together from interviews, research, forensics and plain old-fashioned snooping. It's quite absorbing to go through the process with Diamond and his team.
I highly recommend the whole series, as well as this latest book.
OK--so author Peter Lovesey delivers a decent plot and a rather good procedural. Where this story does not succeed so well is when it hits the denouement and the motivation of the killer(s?) becomes paramount. That motivation as laid out by the author is just not plausible enough to be attributed to the kind of person(s) that the killer(s) turn out to be. For me, it was literally a "oh, come on" moment.
Lovesey is a good writer, but this can't be one of his best efforts.
Diamond's investigation takes him to historical sites in Bath, to the area's horseracing scene and to London's seamy world of eastern European sex workers who came to England after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
We don't see much of Peter Diamond's personal life in this particular entrant in the series. It's more of a straightforward police procedural. I thought it was interesting, but not a standout. Still, a medium-grade Lovesey is well above average for most mysteries.
What follows is a case lead by old pro Peter Diamond, who insists that the two crimes are connected and doggedly pursues the truth in spite of strong discouragement from his boss. Author Lovesey's pacing and plotting is superb, his characters genuine and likable, including the bad guys. Inspector Diamond has recently lost his wife, and is provided here with material for a budding, if not wildly romantic, new relationship with a smart, sassy woman (close to his own age, even!). Lovesey also makes good use of his settings, evoking a realistic sense of time and place. As in other series fiction, perhaps it's better to read the entries in chronological order, but I haven't done that, and find that Skeleton Hill holds its own as a standalone.