The Peter Diamond series continues to sparkle

Recommended:

diamond solitaireDiamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey; first published in Great Britain in 1992 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $16.95 (but discounted at Amazon to $14.69 (USD); Book 2 of a 16-book series. As always, prices are subject to change without warning.

Diamond Solitaire is a gem of a detective story.

The second in the series of 16 detective stories featuring the irascible and overweight ex-detective superintendent Peter Diamond begins in the furniture department of Harrods’s, the landmark London department store, and takes the reader on a worldwide journey from Europe to North America and on to the Far East. And the journeys are chief among the joys of Peter Lovesey’s series, as well as other series from Soho Crime.

I read it as a continuation of Soho Crime’s reading challenge, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. The publisher has given me two months to read my way through the series. This is a challenge I’ve accepted with alacrity.

First, the stories shine with the highly polished prose so often found in British fiction, even among the so-called “genre” fiction of crime fiction, or mysteries. Second, Diamond is an outwardly unlovable but in fact oh-so-lovable character! Here, he is stripped of the authority he once held with Scotland Yard, yet he maintains an inner authority that no shield can provide. Third, like all the Soho Crime series, these stories are rich in their international settings.

This time out, Lovesey takes readers from London to Milan, New York, Tokyo and Yokohama, picking up a sumo wrestler along the way. He explores the cut-throat pharmaceutical industry, and the more conventionally cut-throat Mafioso. He gives glimpses into post-graduate research at prestigious universities as well as the uniquely Japanese culture of sumo wrestling.

The pace is leisurely, and the mystery multi-faceted. The young girl found under a pile of pillows is speechless. Is this a symptom of autism, or a symptom of terror? And who, and where, are her parents? Diamond can’t let it go. Meanwhile, the founder of a pharmaceutical company is given a deadly diagnosis, while his firm struggles to keep a competitive edge and come up with a new and profitable drug – and deal with the question of his succession. The mafia is lurking around on the fringes with contract killers and hired henchmen.

Once again, Lovesey provides a pleasing puzzle in this semi-police procedural. The language is not as clean as The Last Detective, and some readers may not care for the four-lettered words scattered in the speeches of some of the characters. The violence, though, is handled with discretion. You can’t have murder without violence, but the details are never nauseating.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Diamond Solitaire from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have challenged her integrity in regard to her reviews.  They remain uniquely hers. She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  After resigning from the Avon and Somerset Police Force in a fit of pique, Peter Diamond is reduced to working as a security guard at Harrods’s, but he loses that job after an abandoned Japanese girl if found under a pile of pillows after the store closes. Diamond’s search for another job is sidetracked by the mystery of the speechless girl’s identity – and the plot that threatens her safety.

PETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, 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. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. 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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Quick and the Dead

Highly recommended — despite reservations

Scheduled Publication Date 1 May 2016
Scheduled for release  1 May 2016

Introducing outspoken female sleuth Alex Quick in the first of a new mystery series by Susan Moody. When her business partner, acclaimed art historian and university professor Dr. Helena Drummond, disappears, Alexandra Quick is consumed by guilt. Shortly before she vanished, Helena had complained of being menaced by a stalker, and Alex had dismissed her fears as groundless. Now Alex, a former police detective, is determined to use her finely-honed investigative skills to find out what’s happened to her friend and colleague.  But the more she uncovers, the more Alex realizes how little she really knew Dr. Helena Drummond. As it becomes increasingly clear that the woman she thought she knew so well has been keeping a great many secrets from her, Alex must decide: is Helena a victim . . . or is she a killer?

Susan Moody’s Quick and The Dead is exactly the kind of mystery I want to fling in the face of my more intellectual friends who decry my preference for “frivolous” fiction – or, as they scathingly condemn such books, “mind candy.”

First, you won’t find anything “frivolous” about Alex Quick, a former high-ranking homicide detective who left the force after finding out about her husband’s infidelities . . . and suffering a heart-rending miscarriage of the child she hadn’t known she carried.  Second, no one who reads Quick and The Dead with a mind even partially pried open could dismiss this as “mind candy.”

Instead, this is the highly literate fiction for which British mystery writers, in particular, are so well known – and well regarded.  Think P.D. James, although I am not suggesting that Moody’s style is anything other than her own.  Not for a moment.  No, this is literature that just so happens to involve murder and other mysteries.

The murder is disturbingly violent – and readers need to know that the initial depiction of the murder scene is disturbingly detailed as well.  This is no comfortable cosy!  Yet, I strongly recommend Quick and The Dead to readers who even think they may be able to handle it, and they can thank Moody’s deftness in dealing with the scene from there on out for that recommendation.  Quick herself is so deeply affected by the violent killing that she cannot (and Moody does not) continue to dwell on these details.  Instead, the restraint employed by the character and her creator serve to heighten the sense of heinousness without subjecting the reader’s mental imagery to further violence.

Readers should also be prepared for a bit more than a sprinkling of four-letter words, in particular one that is usually considered the most objectionable by those of us who dislike them.  (That includes me.)  And yet, I still think readers who can possibly overlook their objections to graphic violence and obscene words should and would enjoy this novel.  Some can’t, and those won’t.  And that’s a pity, because this is a stunning read.

Alex Quick is both tough and tender.  It’s not just “cop-speak” when she blurts out such words.  This is who she is, and that is how she would speak.  Moody has created a complex, multi-dimensional character who fascinates, and I look forward to getting to know her better.  I also look forward (and plan to look backward, too) to more from Moody.  I like her way with words, even if I don’t like all of the words she employs, and I like her sense of story.

The mystery begins when Quick discovers a dead woman in her colleague’s flat . . . and quickly realizes how little she knows about the woman with whom she works.  Helena Drummond, the art historian with a body in her bed, is as much a mystery as the identity of the killer.

“She comes across as so open and let-it-all-hang-outish, but in fact she gives almost nothing away.  So I don’t know anything about her background or her family situation.  Nothing.  Apart from the fact that she’s been married twice,” Quick tells another character as she begins her search for her missing partner.  She’s immediately stunned to learn that one of those husbands is a painter whose work she has long admired and has urged Helena to include in one of the compilations of pictures and text that they have published to much acclaim and some profit.

The police, not surprisingly, want to find Helena, too.  One does tend to wonder about the disappearance of a woman when another woman’s body is found, brutalized, in her bed.  Quick is sure Helena couldn’t be involved . . . but the more she searches for answers, the more questions she finds.  About Helena.  About the victim.  About herself.

The intensity builds, as Moody layers mystery upon mystery, pulling the reader further and further into the story, swiping page after page until there is nothing left to discover.  And that’s just as well, because, by then, the reader should be thoroughly satisfied, even satiated.

One final warning:  Readers may very well have a hard time settling on what to read next because, I promise, they will not want to settle for less.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Severn House and NetGalley.  This review reflects her opinions and only her opinions.  The book is for sale, but Sis is not – nor has the publisher nor anyone else connected with this or any other book attempted to corrupt her.

Hardcover $28.95 (USD), pre-order price $23.01 as of 30 March 2016; Kindle list price $22.36 (USD), pre-order price $14.99 as of 30 March 2016.  Scheduled for release in the U.S. on 1 May 2016.featured