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Upon a Dark Night
Peter Diamond Mystery, No 5
Peter Lovesey

Mysterious Press
1997/ ISBN 0892966696
Police Procedural / Bath, England / Contemporary

Reviewed by L J Roberts

First Sentence: A young woman opened her eyes.

An unconscious woman, found in a hospital parking lot, awakens to find she has no memory. Released to social services, she is placed in a hostel and befriended and named “Rose” by Ada Shaftsbury; a good soul with a large personality and a penchant for shoplifting. The Bath police have their own problems with the apparent suicides of an elderly farmer by shotgun and a woman off a roof. But were they suicides and how do they link to Rose, whom Ada is pushing the police to find after she’s not seen her for two weeks. It’s up to DS Peter Diamond to figure it out.

There is nothing better than a book that not only has an intriguing beginning but also causes you to wonder what you’d do in a similar situation.

An unusual facet to this story is that Diamond doesn’t begin to play a major role until quite a ways into the story, but what a dynamic, and flawed, character he is. I enjoy the relationship he has with his wife, Stephanie, and their cat, Raffles. At the same time, he is not an easy person for others to deal with, particularly Detective Inspector Julie Hargreaves. Diamond respects her, but releases his frustration publicly on her and it is through his imperfections and some of their interchanges that we get to know Diamond better. Ada, with all her faults, is a pivotal character and often allows Lovesey to exhibit his delightfully dry humor…”While her old man was refusing to admit to anything, she was singing like the three tenors.”

What I most appreciate, however, is the plotting. It takes you down interesting, unexpected roads where you learn about everything from film shooting schedules, ancient English history and detectorology and treasure troves. The inclusion and care of such details is only one element that sets Lovesey apart as a writer. I particularly like that DS Diamond investigates the case by looking for evidence, doing the research, working his team and following the clues rather than working from assumption. There are good climatic twists and a very well done ending. I am delighted that there are many more books in the series waiting for me to read.

Reviewer's Note: More Peter Lovesey mysteries
Reviewed 2011
© 2011