Diamond Solitaire

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the hard-fought competition to produce a different kind of detective hero, Peter Lovesey’s Diamond is a true winner. The first Peter Diamond mystery, THE LAST DETECTIVE, deservedly won the coveted Anthony award. Now the lovable overweight detective returns in a story of murder and concealed identity.

Fired from his job as security guard at Harrods when a Japanese child is found hidden behind furniture in the store, unable or unwilling to speak, Diamond turns his attention to finding out who she is and where she belongs. His search, bankrolled by a Sumo wrestler who has taken an interest in the girl, leads Diamond into many challenges. Complications arise: the child is kidnapped, and shortly thereafter the kidnapper is murdered. Diamond’s quest then acquires another dimension, as he must find and rescue the child as well as identify her. His solution pulls together seemingly separate narrative strands in a highly satisfying conclusion.

The major characters are finely drawn in this fast-paced novel, and especially well crafted is the portrait of the child, who turns out to be autistic, and who communicates with Diamond by means of a series of cryptic drawings. Other figures are equally well sketched, including the Sumo wrestler, the industrialist who dominates an apparent subplot, and Diamond’s wife Stephanie.

This mystery is more than a page-turner with a complicated plot. Lovesey exploits the allegorical overtones of the classic detective novel skillfully and subtly. DIAMOND SOLITAIRE is multifaceted, so that it has strong appeal to fans of the particular types of detective story: classic puzzler, hard-boiled, action thriller, psychological thriller, etc. This is not a quick-read, throw-away murder mystery, but a satisfying novel that will leave the reader checking the bookstalls for the next Peter Diamond title.