The Secret Hangman by Peter Lovesey

September 3, 2007 at 1:34 am (Mystery fiction, The British police procedural)

hangman.jpg plovesey1.jpg I just finished The Secret Hangman, the ninth entry in the Peter Diamond series, and for my money, one of the best. Author Peter Lovesey’s wit once again enlivens the novel, and his deep knowledge and love of the city of Bath is also much in evidence. Poor Diamond is still recovering from a terrible loss, when suddenly the lovely Paloma Kean enters his life and makes it worth living again. Meanwhile, members of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary (the force responsible for policing Bath) are investigating a series of gruesome hangings, complete with bodies left to swing in the breeze in full view of the public. On top of this particular crisis, a daring group of criminals have been carrying out a series of “ram raids” – driving trucks through shop windows and grabbing whatever merchandise they can get their hands on before the police arrive. So Peter Diamond’s plate is full with both the bitter and the sweet, just how bittersweet he – and the reader – will be shocked to find out as the novel reaches its denouement.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I did feel that there was one character that didn’t quite ring true: Paloma Kean’s son Jerry. Lovesey provides him with both a vocation and a passion that seem a bit too specifically geared to the needs of the plot. This is just one flaw, though, in an otherwise masterful performance. And a word to those who complain that standard police procedurals, especially those set in England, are too slow moving – I dare you to put this novel down as it hurtles toward its stunning conclusion!

The fine site Reviewing The Evidence features two reviews of this novel, one largely negative; the other, quite positive. Both are intelligently written and observed. You might want to read them after you’ve read Secret Hangman, rather than before.

There seems to be some confusion over Peter Diamond’s current rank. The novel is subtitled, “An Inspector Peter Diamond Investigation;” the jacket copy likewise refers to him as “Inspector” Peter Diamond. Yet on p.136, he is at pains to correct that misapprehension on the part of a publicity director at a theater performance he and Paloma are attending: “‘Detective Superintendent actually. Diamond is my name.'” (In the I Love a Mystery Newsletter, reviewer Sally Powers also notes this discrepancy.)

Actually, I find that deciphering police ranks in British police procedurals can be rather challenging. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the subject – alas, I could not find the rank of “Detective Superintendent!” Have a look, if you dare; it made my head spin! Suggestions for other sources of information on this subject would be most welcome…

1 Comment

  1. The Headhunters by Peter Lovesey « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Music, Mystery fiction, The British police procedural, books) I always look forward to the new Peter Lovesey because I know I am virtually guaranteed to enjoy an engrossing story, intriguing characters, lots […]

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