cover image The Last Detective

The Last Detective

Peter Lovesey. Doubleday Books, $18.5 (331pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42114-0

Irascible, corpulent, cynical Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond of the Avon and Somerset murder squad attributes Britain's decline as a world power to the abolition of capital punishment in 1964. Spurning computer gadgetry, he sticks to common sense, index cards and gumshoeing: ``Knocking on doors. That's how we get results.'' The almost clueless case of the naked woman's body found floating in Chew Valley Lake poses a supreme challenge for the detective, who is anxious to clear his name of recent charges of brutality. The belated identification of the victim as actress Geraldine Snoo, written out of a BBC soap opera two years before, leads to one surprise after another, including the claim of the victim's professor husband that she had tried to kill him, and culminating in the suspenseful trial of divorced mother Dana Didrikson whom Geraldine had accused of trying to steal her husband. Diamond refutes genetic fingerprinting evidence against Dana and, in a stunning last scene, reveals the killer's identity. Lovesy, winner of a Silver Dagger Award for Waxwork and a Golden Dagger for The False Inspector Dew, uses Bath as his setting, treating us to a great chase through the Roman baths for which the town is named. This witty novel gets the new Perfect Crime imprint (formerly Crime Club) off to a flying start. (Oct.)