Soho’s reading challenge continues

Dark NightRecommended:  Upon a Dark Night by Peter Lovesey; originally published in Great Britain in 1997 by Little, Brown and Company, published in the U.S. in 2005 by Soho Press Inc.; reissued by Soho for Kindle, list price $14.99 (USD)/currently $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, $14.00 (USD). Book 5 of a 16-book series.

Peter Lovesey features a fiction favorite – the victim whose memory is utterly lost – in Upon a Dark Night, his fifth crime novel featuring the irascible yet insightful Peter Diamond.

The effort is ambitious, even audacious, yet Lovesey succeeds where lesser writers have failed. First, he did his homework. He writes knowledgeably about dissociative amnesia, avoiding the popular misconceptions regarding this really rare form of memory loss.  This factual framework means a story that was written nearly 20 years ago remains believable today, even with advances in medical knowledge.

The story also succeeds because of Lovesey’s skill. The plot is complex, but the clues are well placed and the characters, as always, are well drawn. Lovesey rightfully allows Diamond to suffer some consequences for his boorish behavior, and this allows readers to continue to believe in the obviously flawed but essentially kind character of the detective. The pace also showcases Lovesey’s skill, maintaining the reader’s interest in seemingly separate storylines and allowing the reader to see the connections while Diamond remains in the dark.

Like the earlier books in this series (as well as other series on Soho’s International Crime list), the setting is superb. Throughout the story, Lovesey scatters details from Bath’s past and present, along with intriguing hints of history involving ancient battles between the Britons and the Saxons. He also continues to showcase the city using the Royal Crescent not only as the scene of a woman’s death but as the backdrop for a production filming The Pickwick Papers.

I’m reading my way through the Peter Diamond series as I participate in Soho’s reading challenge celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. I have two months to read all 16 mysteries, and I hope to pull it off because it’s been a pleasure to read these and I’d like to read the first five and I’d like to read the 11 remaining.

These are traditional detective stories. In some, such as this one, the victims do die violent deaths, but Lovesey exercises discretion in the details. He also keeps the use of expletives to a minimum, though readers will find a few in this particular novel. He writes too well to rely on them, either for “realism” or other unconvincing reasons, so readers shouldn’t take offense.

NOTE: Sis thanks Soho for her complimentary reading copy of Upon a Dark Night and for the opportunity to participate in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Her review, as always, reflects her own opinions.

Description:  A young woman is dumped, injured and unconscious, in a private hospital’s parking lot. She is an amnesiac with no memory prior to her discovery by hospital personnel. Detective Inspector Peter Diamond of the Bath homicide squad is unwilling to become involved. He has other, more important cases to solve: A woman has plunged to her death from the roof of a local landmark while half the young people of Bath partied below, and an elderly farmer has shot himself. Are these apparent suicides what they seem, or are there sinister forces at work? And might the amnesiac woman hold the key to both cases?

About the author: Peter Lovesey has written 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He has received the Cartier Diamond Dagger, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


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