Diamond Solitaire

Peter Lovesey, Author Mysterious Press $18.95 (343p) ISBN 978-0-89296-535-9

Lovesey brings back Peter Diamond, the likable, pudgy London copper introduced in 1991's sparkling and precisely plotted The Last Detective . Stripped of his rank, Diamond is working as a Harrods' rent-a-cop--until a young Japanese girl is found hiding in the store during his watch and he receives another pink slip. With time free, he investigates the identity of the youngster, now named Naomi, who remains silent and unclaimed. When she is abducted, Diamond traces her to New York and Japan where a Sumo wrestler agrees to bankroll the ex-copper's highly unofficial investigation. Lovesey's grip on the plot never loosens as Diamond, with gentle humor, bluffs his way past authorities by feigning a clout he no longer possesses. At the beginning of the book, a drug company is rocked by both the death of its president and an explosion at an Italian chemical plant. The ensuing corporate power struggle suggests to ever-observant organized crime factions that a buck might be made, and a murder is arranged. How this fits into the moving tale of the mute girl who draws diamonds on paper to symbolize her new friend is clarified only near the conclusion. It's a powerful moment in a book that, without gimmickry or cross-genre splicing, delivers superb, unashamedly traditional crime writing. Lovesey's mysteries have won awards in England and France; he has previously been nominated for an Edgar, as he could be again for this fine tale. Author tour. (Oct.)