The Last Detective ~ Peter Lovesey

I have recently been given a monthly book subscription as a gift.  I look on these as something of a two-edged sword.  It’s lovely to have a ‘free’ book dropping through the letter box each month but, however much information you provide the bookseller with, there are still times when opening the parcel leads, either immediately or subsequently, to a disappointment.  The first book I received, in August, fell into the former category, it was one I had already read, although I didn’t own it and wasn’t averse to reading it again. When I opened September’s parcel it was to reveal the first in Peter Lovesey’s series about DS Peter Diamond, The Last Detective, and I have to say that for some time I thought it was going to fall into the latter.

As most of my reader friends and acquaintances well know, I am more than happy to be introduced to a new (to me) police procedural series and a quick check on the Fantastic Fiction site showed me that if I enjoyed this there were another seventeen titles available, so I set about the book pretty much as soon as it arrived. Having just finished it, I have to say that I am in two minds as to whether or not I shall read any more.  Perhaps writing about this first instalment will help me decide.

I call the main character DS Peter Diamond, but in fact, circumstances force him to resign part way through the story, so I have no way of knowing whether or not he will ever resume his role within the official ranks of law and order. The case that leads to his departure begins with the discovery of a woman’s body which has clearly been floating for some time in a lake near Bath, where the novel is set.  Because of its condition identifying who the victim is takes time, especially as numerous callers ID her as a character in a soap opera. However, those callers are not so far wrong as the body turns out to be that of one Geraldine Jackman née Snoo, the actress who played the role and wife of Peter Jackman, an English Literature professor at the local university. Jackman has already achieved some local ‘notoriety’ both as a result of his rescue of twelve year old Matthew Didrikson from the weir near Pulteney Bridge and because of an exhibition about Jane Austen staged at the Assembly Rooms. When Diamond and his colleagues start to look into the troubled circumstances of the couple’s marriage it seems as if he is going to become even more notorious because he immediately becomes the chief suspect. However, a rock solid alibi forces the police to look elsewhere and attention turns to Matthew’s mother, Dana, whose gratitude, it is suggested, has turned into stronger feelings and who has already had a number of run-ins with Geraldine, an unstable woman at the best of times.

Written and set in 1991, the novel very much reflects the changes that police investigations were undergoing at the time.  Computers and new forensic techniques, such as genetic fingerprinting, are beginning to play a large part in any inquiry and Diamond, a copper of the old school, resents this and isn’t slow to make his displeasure apparent.  He treats those who think differently from him with disdain and this was my main problem with the book: I really didn’t want to spend time with someone I initially saw as inherently unlikeable.  Removed from a position of power, his tendency to bully and browbeat those around him is inevitably diminished and once he had resigned from the force I found I was getting on better with him. If I do read on in the series it will be to discover how Lovesey, whose most recent Diamond novel was published earlier this year, has set about bringing this curmudgeon forward almost thirty years.  If he found the technology of the early 1990s difficult how much more so must that be the case now?  I suspect that what I will find is that time has not flowed quite as fast for the ex-policeman as it has for the rest of us.

Ultimately, this wasn’t a bad read and the bookseller’s choice has certainly introduced me to an author I might not otherwise have considered.  I have to say, though, that I am hoping for a more successful surprise when October’s book sails through the letterbox.


23 thoughts on “The Last Detective ~ Peter Lovesey

  1. A Life in Books September 12, 2019 / 12:50 pm

    I like the idea of those subscriptions but I can see they’re a mixed blessing. I’ve a feeling there’s a scene either in this Lovesey or one of his early novels set in the Waterstone’s I once worked in. He was a great favorite with local crime readers but that may well have been the thrill of idenitiying various locations.


    • Café Society September 12, 2019 / 12:56 pm

      Is that the scene where Ted Hughes is visiting? If so, it’s in this one. I find books set locally something of a mixed blessing. I recently came across one writer who got everything correct, but that’s a rarity and if they don’t I have difficulty taking the book seriously.


      • A Life in Books September 12, 2019 / 3:11 pm

        It is, and I know exactly what you mean about accuracy.


  2. kaggsysbookishramblings September 12, 2019 / 2:52 pm

    Interesting! I’ve considered these kind of bookish subscriptions – so appealing! But I own and have read so many books, that I fear I would end up with things I’ve read before. Glad this one wasn’t entirely a dud…


    • Café Society September 12, 2019 / 2:55 pm

      That is the problem, Karen. I’ve had a different subscription once before and only two out of twelve were books I had already read, which wasn’t bad, but when you add in the three which I really didn’t enjoy it lengthens the odds on you getting something you will be glad to have been introduced to.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) September 12, 2019 / 3:20 pm

    These subscription schemes sound great in principle, but I feel they should be aimed at those who read a lot less than us. An exception would be the Wigtown Bookshop’s random book one where they truly send you something totally random! That could be fun, rather than disappointing.


    • Café Society September 12, 2019 / 3:25 pm

      It’s something of a paradox, isn’t it Annabel. Those of us who really love receiving a parcel of books are the ones most likely to be disappointed by what is in it. Whereas those who would meet with something fresh every time, probably aren’t interested.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Liz September 12, 2019 / 4:25 pm

    Such a cautionary tale. I have teetered on the verge of requesting a book subscription as a gift idea when asked by relatives because, like you, they sound so appealing. But I can see the pitfalls and am sorry that yours has been disappointing in various ways of late. Fingers crossed that the October parcel is a happier one.


    • Café Society September 12, 2019 / 4:39 pm

      Thanks Liz. Whatever else there is always the thrill as you struggle with the wrapping hoping that this time it will be something absolutely marvellous.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz September 12, 2019 / 4:43 pm

        I admire your ‘glass half full’ approach!


      • Café Society September 12, 2019 / 5:34 pm

        Now Liz, surely you know that the glass isn’t half full, neither is it half empty; it’s twice as big as it needs to be.😉. Have you read MW Craven’s The Puppet Show? If not, do. It was probably the best police procedural I read last year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Liz September 12, 2019 / 6:52 pm

        Haha – excellent! Will give the Craven a look thanks 😀


  5. BookerTalk September 12, 2019 / 10:54 pm

    I’ve has three book subscriptions. Only one was worth it – Asympote. I had one from the Wigtown store for a year but virtually everything went straight to a charity shop. Either I’d read it or it held zero appeal.


  6. Elle September 13, 2019 / 11:54 am

    Since I am a bookseller whose entire job is to choose the books for subscribers to our bespoke subscription service, this is a really interesting post! I think that, although it’s tempting to say that such services are for everyone, sometimes that’s just not true – I’m not the ideal recipient, for example, because I read about five books a week and am quite happy directing my own reading. But I think where they can be really useful is to get people out of a reading rut; to refresh a reading life; to introduce enthusiastic but perhaps narrow readers to authors they might never have reached for on their own; etc. (And that said, I do have plenty of extremely well-read subscribers! For them, the bespoke nature of our service is really important: I get to look at their file and think really hard about choosing something for them that isn’t obvious. Most other book subscriptions that I’m aware of don’t have that level of personal tailoring – a lot of them are just “crime book of the month” or “history book of the month” or what-have-you – so the chances of duplication with a well-read customer are higher.)

    I realize it’s entirely possible that your subscription is with my shop; it might even be with me. Heywood Hill?


    • Café Society September 13, 2019 / 2:52 pm

      I think the reason they appeal to me, Elle, is because nobody ever buys me books on the grounds that they are bound to buy something I’ve already read or have strong views about and I love getting books through the post. Of course, my friends’ reasons for not buying me books are precisely why a subscription service is dicey as well. I do take your point about expanding the reading of those whose horizons have, for whatever reasons, become too narrow. This is precisely what I did as both a teacher and a lecturer and what I still try to do with the reading groups that I run. I can also see how, if begun early enough, a long term relationship with a bookshop can offer something for even the most exhaustive reader. The subscription isn’t with Heywood Hill, but I do have a bespoke bookseller choosing what to send. What I would really value is being able to build a face to face relationship with a shop and come in and discuss what I might buy for the next few months. However, my nearest independent bookshop (i.e. one where the bookseller would be interested in and have the knowledge to have such a conversation) is now over fifty miles four hours travelling away. Perhaps I will come and land myself on your doorstep one day.


      • Elle September 14, 2019 / 4:15 am

        I’d love that. Are you based in the UK? (I do phone consultations, too, just sayin’!) Also, I know the pain of never being bought books because everyone assumes I’ve read everything already. It’s the opposite of the Dumbledore Problem!


      • Café Society September 15, 2019 / 11:46 am

        At some point then, in the not too distant future, I will present myself at your door. I can’t say when because I’m only well enough to travel on certain days and there is no predicting when those will be. And yes, you’re right, it is exactly the opposite of the Dumbledore Problem!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. heavenali September 13, 2019 / 4:30 pm

    One of the reasons I shy away from these subscriptions usually is because I am convinced I will just get things I have read. Glad this book at least was worth reading.


    • Café Society September 13, 2019 / 4:32 pm

      It’s a real case of from the sublime to the ridiculous, Ali. There is the wonderful anticipation as the book falls through the letter box followed by either the pleasure or total disappointment only seconds later.


  8. FictionFan September 16, 2019 / 11:19 pm

    I love the idea of book subscriptions but have always suspected I wouldn’t love the reality quite so much. I did read this book several years ago and remember quite enjoying it, but not enough to ever make me pick up another…


    • Café Society September 17, 2019 / 5:05 pm

      I am going to read the most recent one, simply because I want to see what the writer has done about the ageing process. The first is set when it was written. If the same is true of this year’s offering then Diamond must be heading for eighty.

      Liked by 1 person

      • FictionFan September 17, 2019 / 10:58 pm

        Makes Rebus seem like a youngster!


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