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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Diamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey

Soho Crime, 327 pages, $15 (c1992)

“Diamond Solitaire” is the second in the police detective Peter Diamond series, mostly set in Bath, England. I say “mostly,” because this book takes us to New York City and Japan, and Bath is temporarily left far, far behind.

Chubby, volatile Peter Diamond is the star of the type of series rarely seen today: temperate with play-fair detecting.

At the start of this book, Diamond has peremptorily quit the police force in Bath. He does not suffer fools and, unfortunately, it does not matter to him if they hold his fate in their palms. He and his wife have moved to London and he has begun work as a night security guard at Harrod’s. He is fired when an unknown person invades the department store, triggering a full-out anti-terrorist response. (This is pre-9/11, as we are reminded by a bittersweet reference to the Twin Towers that makes its way into the book.) The invader turns out to be a nine-year-old girl, mute and abandoned, as it turns out.

With his sudden abundant leisure time — when he’s not ineptly attending to some home repairs — he tries to find out who the little girl is and why she was abandoned.

Diamond must be more charming than multiple award-winning author Peter Lovesey gives him credit for, because doors open for Diamond and people trust him to be what he says he is and do what he says he’s going to do. He interviews and gains the trust of what appears to be an autistic Japanese girl. Somewhere along the way, he has committed to helping her, come what may.

The plot leaps along joyfully as Diamond tries to determine if the girl is from Japan or England or some point in-between. He acquires an astounding patron in a 300-pound revered sumo wrestler from Japan. He befuddles, bewitches, and beleaguers police forces on three continents, most of whom twitch their collective shoulders in surrender to an irresistible force.

Read the review of the first book in the series, “The Last Detective."

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