Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey

Soho Crime, 368 pages, $26.95

Because I reveal a vital piece of the plot, I'm labeling this whole review as a spoiler, so …


There’s a good reason, I guess, why I don’t read two books in a row (or in near proximity) by the same author, especially two books far apart in a long series. One or the other is bound to suffer in comparison.

I read the second book in Peter Lovesey’s Peter Diamond series, “Diamond Solitaire,” and okay-liked the whole book and crazy-liked some parts of that book (the 300-pound sumo wrestler, for instance). That was only a few weeks ago. “Stone Wife” is the latest in the Diamond series; #14, if you’re counting. Twenty-two years separates the two books.

This is the plot in short: A professor and Chaucerian scholar is about to seal the winning bid on an old sculpture supposedly depicting The Wife of Bath, one of Chaucer’s bawdier tales, when he is shot and killed by masked men who invade the auction. Diamond and his police cohorts set out to find which of many trails should be followed to find the man’s killer. Not being able to narrow down the choices, the police follow them all!

Whatever set up this particular piece of the plot and whatever came after was completely overshadowed when about halfway through the book DS Ingeborg Smith finds a gun cache in a suspect’s house, makes a hurried getaway, and then ... nothing. Instead of bolting for the nearest police station/phone box/box of flares/all-night diner to alert the police, she goes home, refreshes herself, then almost casually drops by her office. By the way, she says, there also may have been a dead body falling from a tree in the front yard. But since that was hours ago, good luck on finding any evidence!!!

Yes, Diamond cleverly ties everything up. Yes, the solution was a byproduct of one of the many theories the detective team thought up. In the best Perry Mason fashion, the culprit coughs up a confession despite lawyerly warnings. Once again, enjoyed parts (the professor’s naughty widow) and not others (Ingeborg’s hare-brained undercover assignment).

Despite Ingeborg's misadventure, kudos always have to be extended to Lovesey on doing well by his creation, Peter Diamond, and the charming and historically intriguing city of Bath.

As the naughty Wife herself might say in advice to Diamond, not just about marriage but life in general: Experience, thou noon auctoritee / Were in this world, were right ynogh to me/  To speke of wo that is in mariage.

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