Sunday, April 19, 2015

REVIEW: The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey
The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey
Original Publication Year:1991
Genre(s): Mystery, Contemporary
Series: Peter Diamond #1
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrated by: Simon Prebble

I think probably the best thing I can say about this older mystery title is that it  frequently surprised me.  That's what a mystery novel should ideally do - lead you along a winding path to a shocking conclusion.  The conclusion was perhaps not shocking but the rest of the book definitely kept me on my mental toes, going places I didn't expect and fully embracing a complex plot and characters.

A young red-headed women is found floating in a lake and no one seems to know who she is.  It is not even clear if her death is the result of foul play.  Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond of the Bath murder squad is given the case.  He's an old school detective who shuns technology and  is currently under a cloud of corruption charges.  Nevertheless, he tackles the case with energy and soon discovers that it has more layers than he ever expected which involves some rare missing letters written by Jane Austen. 

Peter Diamond at first appears to be the quintessential cranky British detective - he bullies his inferiors and alienates everyone while believing staunchly that his ideas are the best.  Quite frankly, I was struggling to sympathize with him.  A change in his life occurs midway through the book however and it reveals a different side to him and by the end of the book I had developed a grudging respect for him as a reader must with these cantankerous old cops.

The book also, somewhat unexpectedly, turns the narrative over for a few chapters to two of the key witnesses in the case as they tell the story leading up to the victim's death from their perspectives. Both are under suspicion so the whole time I wondered if they were reliable narrators.  It adds a dimension of suspense as well as providing a broader view of the crime.  It also muddles the picture of what exactly happened. 

I went into this book expecting a pretty generic sort of British mystery.  While still having all the elements of those mysteries it ends up being a little more interesting and complex then expected.  Diamond's not going to become my favorite detective of all time but he did develop into an intriguing figure.

Simon Prebble was a great narrator for the audio version of the book. 

FINAL VERDICT:  A surprisingly complex contemporary British mystery.  Excited that this is the start of a series and will definitely be reading on in the series! 4 out of 5 Stars.

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