But it seems that the literary connection is as crucial as it is sensational. When Dougan's wife disappears and Peg Redbird, proprietress of the Noble and Nude antiques store, turns up dead after a heated conversation with the professor (in hot pursuit of Shelley's writing desk and sketchbook), Diamond has to wonder whether a thirst for knowledge also implies a thirst for blood. As Diamond immerses himself in Bath's cultural history, however, more and more suspects pop up, linking the long-dead bones in the cellar to Peg's very recent corpse. Author Peter Lovesey, with a nod and wink toward the conventions of traditional British mystery fiction, paints his characters with broad strokes: like the characters in a game of Clue, the suspects are easily labeled. Is it the spoiled heir who dunnit? What about the up-and-coming reporter? Or the cryptic puppeteer? Or (and this is really giving Diamond ulcers) the suave city councilor, who happens to be good friends with Diamond's boss? Lovesey tiptoes agilely just this side of caricature--and has a great deal of fun doing so.
Diamond himself is an enjoyable enough character, though his grouchiness seems to be missing some of the verve it had in earlier books. One might take issue with the novel's sense of pacing (at times funereal), and with Lovesey's narrative gimmick of switching occasionally to the murderer's perspective (too Gothic a trick for a relatively unexciting plot). These complaints, however, don't detract from an otherwise solid entry in the Superintendent Diamond series. --Kelly Flynn -- From Amazon.com Amazon.com Review