(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Members of the Bloodhounds are mystery novel lovers who meet to discuss and argue about the genre and its practitioners. They all seem astonished when an unknown thief, who stole the oldest British stamp, managed to somehow insert his theft into the middle of their meeting—the stamp appears in a book from which a member was reading. They report the discovery promptly to the police, only to find the body of a murder victim locked in one of their members’ homes—the victim being another member of the Bloodhounds. Peter Diamond must unravel the case.

The plot of Peter Lovesey’s BLOODHOUNDS is complicated and yet rational. Characters are well drawn; Diamond remains his abrasive yet sensitive self, and the types of people who belong to groups that take fiction for reality are convincingly portrayed. There is the impoverished snob, the educated drunk, the bored housewife, etc.—all deftly sketched and maintained. The plot follows the usual pattern of throwing suspicion on a particular character, only to have the evidence explained neatly away (or the suspect killed). The setting, Bath, England, provides a good backdrop for the action. The conclusion provides adequate surprise and breaks no rules.

Thematically this work is less complex than other Peter Diamond novels. The reader may expect this novel to transcend its genre, because of the depth with which it raises issues about realism and escapism in the detective novels. Despite Diamond’s ruminations on the brutality of real murder in contrast to the tidiness of the detective story, it does not really do this. It does, however, provide a classic locked-room mystery with a satisfying solution.