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Beau Death: A Peter Diamond Investigation


Beau Death: A Peter Diamond Investigation

Should you happen to be in New York and pass by the Grand Hyatt on the evening of April 26, 2018, please nod and tip your hat. It is at this time that the Mystery Writers of America, among a number of other momentous events, will be recognizing mystery author Peter Lovesey with the Grandmaster Award. Lovesey is the author of over 30 novels, the first among equals being his Peter Diamond Investigation series. If you enjoy mysteries, you may be familiar with him already. But if his name means nothing to you, then I envy you, because you have the joy of encountering his considerable body of work for the first time. BEAU DEATH, his latest Peter Diamond novel, is an excellent example of why.

A contemporary mystery with traditional overtones and a historical basis, the book revolves around Beau Nash, who, from the late 17th- to the mid-18th centuries, was an influential dandy, lech and man-about-town in Bath, England. To this day, some controversy surrounds his death and final resting place, and it is from those circumstances that Chief Inspector Peter Diamond of the Bath Police Department takes his cue.

"The humor is dry, but it is there in spades, as is the clever, puzzling and unforgettable mystery that beats steadily throughout the story."

Things get rolling in BEAU DEATH when a construction crew is demolishing some townhouses to make way for new construction. Their efforts inadvertently uncover a skeleton, seated in a chair, in one of the attics. The remains are all but held together by what appears to be authentic mid-18th-century clothing. What is even more telling is the presence of a white tricorn hat next to the remains, which was a signature fixture for the long-deceased Nash. It and the other evidence seems to demonstrate that Nash, following his death, was somehow consigned to a walled-up tomb in an attic instead of a more traditional burial place.

A minor uproar ensues, resulting in the assignment of Inspector Diamond to ascertain, if possible, proper identification of what is left of the corpse and perhaps determine how it became lodged in its final, if improbable, resting place. The local Beau Nash Society and a Nash scholar are of some hindrance and help, respectively, but it is modern forensics that ultimately wins the day initially when an ordinary but utterly fascinating clue gives Diamond and his team the impetus to begin moving in a new direction. While they are in the middle of the investigation, a local event promoter with some shady ties is murdered during the grand finale of his latest and most ambitious project.

Diamond, at his own insistence, retains jurisdiction over both the present-day murder and the fascinating historical case, leaving his team somewhat overworked but not overwhelmed. It is just about at this point that experienced mystery readers will wonder how the two cases --- one from the past and one very much in the present --- will intersect. The answer is like a traffic roundabout. You’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean, but you’ll thoroughly enjoy arriving at the answer.

BEAU DEATH is simply terrific. You can pick it up and start comfortably reading without being familiar with any of the prior Peter Diamond investigations. Think of a pair of slippers that fit perfectly the first time and every time thereafter. Diamond and his team work well together, even as they throw a few soft elbows at each other personally. The humor is dry, but it is there in spades, as is the clever, puzzling and unforgettable mystery that beats steadily throughout the story. If you’re looking for a great way to close out your reading for the year, you can’t go wrong with BEAU DEATH.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 7, 2017

Beau Death: A Peter Diamond Investigation
by Peter Lovesey

  • Publication Date: December 5, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime
  • ISBN-10: 1616959053
  • ISBN-13: 9781616959050