Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Review: BLOODHOUNDS by Peter Lovesey

The nicely designed Soho edition.

In case you didn't suspect, I am a fan of Lovesey's Peter Diamond series set in the gorgeous city of Bath, England.

My favorite of the books is THE HOUSE SITTER, which I consider one of the best crime novels of all time.

I wasn't happy with this year's entry, STAGE STRUCK, and I know I'm in the minority on that one. But that won't stop me reading the next or even going back and reading those that I missed the first time around.

This is how I came upon BLOODHOUNDS, Lovesey's homage to the Golden Age detectives and the old fashioned whodunits which most of us love. It is also the fourth book in the series. I'm saving the other unread ones for the gray doldrums of January.

The Bloodhounds of the title are a small group of book lovers who gather together once a month to talk mysteries. They meet in a cozy crypt  at St. Michael's church and when they're not picking on each other, they actually do talk about the books they admire most. Of course part of the time is spent belittling each other's favorites, but not even ardent readers are free from fault. Each reader thinks his or her genre within the genre is best.

There's plenty of Golden Age detective name dropping during their meetings, as well as commentary on more modern writers like Andrew Vachss and Val McDermid, among others.

When Sid, one of the members of the little band is found murdered, (a very quiet chap who never had much to say to anyone) it's not just an ordinary murder. No sir. To the police department's disbelief, this  time out, it's a 'locked room' murder, just like in the good old days of John Dickson Carr.

Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond is skeptical, but sure enough, the more they look at it, the more they are chagrined to realize that they do, indeed, have an honest to goodness whodunit on their hands.

The victim was found (with his head bashed in) on a small houseboat, the residence of Milo Motion, another member of the Bloodhounds group. Milo is a great proponent of John Dickson Carr and his alter ego, Carter Dickson, the famed Golden Age writer who specialized in impossible locked room murder plots.

The cabin on the boat was kept sealed with a special lock ordered by Milo, to which only he had the unique key and since Milo has an unshakable alibi for the time of the murder, then who done it? Almost as important - how was it done?

This is a terrific book which cleverly pays homage to the past while making the present day mystery as entertaining as possible. The suspects also, are a varied lot and it's hard to imagine who, among them, even had a motive for killing the harmless little man who'd been one of their earliest members.

As the investigation picks up speed, the deepest darkest secrets of each individual Bloodhound is, of course, unearthed by Diamond and his crew.

The plot is complicated by poetic warnings sent to the newspapers, the theft of one of the world's oldest and most valuable stamps, the Penny Black, from a nearby museum and a second murder. Just when things appear to be getting clearer, author Lovesey still has another surprise in store.

My only quibble is the ending in which the killer comes out of left field, though I'd been a bit suspicious of him earlier AND the motive which is not an especially convincing one. But other than that, it's a terrific book and I highly recommend it, especially if you, like me, love the Golden Age mysteries of once upon a time.

To see a complete list of Peter Lovesey's books, please use this link.


  1. Between you and the New York Times Book Review, my reading list is growing more quickly than I can read! This book sounds like a lot of fun. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

  2. Oh, you'll love this, Lauren. And I know what you mean about lists. Mine is out of control. :)

  3. I am going to borow the lingo of my nephews so bear with me: This book is TOTALLY AWESOME! I really enjoyed it. I think I may have read the whole thing in a day and a half. I love how Diamond knows nothing of the old detective novels and reads one of Carr's (is it THE THREE COFFINS?) and is astounded at how ridiculous it is - nothing like the kind of crime he invesigates. But having acquainted himself with Carr he begins to see that the murderer perhaps is living out a Carr-like fantasy of committing a perfectly bamboozling murder. The solution to the locked boat cabin is pretty darn good, too.

  4. John: Yes, I read it in one big gulp as well. A fun book. I'm setting January aside for a Peter Diamond Read-A-Thon!!

    Diamond can be a pain in the butt, but that's okay with me. :)

  5. Martin: And one I'd overlooked for whatever reason. I'm now realizing that there are quite a few Peter Diamond's I haven't read. So that's about to change...!

  6. Another book I want to read and soon!

    Looks fascinating, especially with the Golden Age of Mysteries theme, and updated.

    It sounds like a holiday week read to me. Will hunt for it at the library.

    Did you look at Fantastic Fiction for a list of Lovesey's books?

    I know that my elderly uncle only read this series and Rendell's Inspector Rexford series, and he loved John Dickson Carr's locked-room mysteries.

  7. Oh this would be fun book for when you're exhausted from shopping and just want to read something fun with a terrific mystery.

    I looked at his list. Meant to link it, but forgot. Old lady memory strikes again!

  8. I know that memory. What I hate is when I'm on my way to another room and can't remember why, or what I'm researching on the Internet.

    I don't usually shop. I let my fingers do the walking across the keyboard, unless the gift can be gotten within a two-block radius.

    But I plan a lot of reading through December, as I'm trying to reach my global challenge goal and my year's goal.

    However, I need a Wolfe pack and I think this book, in addition to my global reads.

    Am reading Asa Larsson's Until Thy Wrath Be Past, an exceptionally good book, well-written. And, Rocky should like this: The book is very pro-dog and has several amusing scenes of dog behavior.

    Not dogs as people or sleuths, but being dogs and having fun.
    And there's a dog rescue in it, not as a main theme, but a kind act of a protagonist.

    Sweden, snow, sun, birds, dogs...nice.

    Have so much fun preparing for the holidays.

  9. Me too, Kathy. I hate that feeling of wandering into a room and not knowing what the heck you're doing there. What a pain.

    I'm having fun too. I'll be having to get new window Christmas lights as the lights I had gave up their ghost last year. I try to wait until Dec 1st to decorate, so everyone is ahead of me as usual.

    I can't believe I haven't read a hundred books this year so far. So I'm rushing through my reading to try and make it at least to 90. In truth I've read more than is on the list. A lot of the time I don't bother adding rereads.


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