THE LAST DETECTIVE is a classic novel of detection. The protagonist, Peter Diamond, is a detective who must solve the murder of an unidentified young woman. The victim is identified as former television star Geraldine Jackman, who was married to a professor of English at Bath University. Diamond’s suspicions immediately fall upon the husband, Greg, since their marriage was marred by her fits of rage. He interrogates Greg to find some flaw in his story. Diamond does not hold with new methods which use computers and scientific instruments. The second in command, John Wigfull, wishes to use the new methods to solve the case, so there is a conflict. Later, Diamond discovers that Greg was out of the country and has an alibi.
Suspicion then turns to Dana Didrikson, a friend of Greg, whom Geraldine saw as a rival. While attempting to bring Dana in for questioning, Diamond is attacked by Dana’s young son, Matthew, who later claims that Diamond injured him. When a supervisor confronts Diamond on this charge, the second such charge against him, Diamond resigns in anger. The way is clear for Wigfull to use his scientific methods to prosecute Dana.
Diamond is now a civilian, but he persists in attempting to solve the crime. His old methods prevent a miscarriage of justice, and he uncovers the true murderer in the last scene. The revelation is startling and is worthy of the best detective fiction.
THE LAST DETECTIVE is a compelling read, and it gives us real insight into the characters of Greg and Dana. However, Lovesey’s greatest creation is Peter Diamond.