I mentioned recently that I enjoyed Peter Lovesey’s latest novel, Skeleton Hill, and I’d like to supplement my comments on that book with a more general, abeit brief, outline of the work of an author who ranks highly on my list of all-time favourites.
One of the impressive features of Lovesey’s long career is that he has succeeded at various different types of mystery story – in this he resembles his brilliant friend Reginald Hill (who was also born in 1936, as was the estimable Robert Barnard.) For instance, he excels at the short form - ‘Youdunnit’, for instance, is a wonderful gimmick story.
He began his career with books about the Victorian detective Sergeant Cribb, and helped to cement the popularity of the history-mystery. The Cribb books were televised (though somehow I managed to miss the TV versions – one day I shall have to track down the DVDs.) with Alan Dobie in the lead role. My favourite of the books is Waxwork.
Bertie and the Seven Bodies was an entry in a series featuring the former Prince of Wales, and is an especially appealing light mystery, in the vein of And Then There Were None. His Peter Diamond books show his ability to achieve a consistently high standard when writing a contemporary series, and The Secret Hangman is a stand-out title. The Vault and The Circle are also very good.
Among the other Lovesey classics, Rough Cider has many admirers, but I’d like to highlight two very different books. On the Edge is a splendid one-off, set in the past, but really a novel of psychological suspense which was very well adapted for television a few years back. And then there is The False Inspector Dew, which takes elements of the Crippen case and weaves them into an absolutely fascinating mystery. Any writer would have been proud to have written either of these novels. But Peter Lovesey has done so much more, and so well.