Thursday, 17 February 2011

[022] Upon a Dark Night - Peter Lovesey

Upon a Dark Night by Peter Lovesey

What the Back of the Book Has to Say:

Who is the young woman, and why was she dumped unconscious in a hospital car park upon a dark night?

Named Rose by the social workers, the amnesiac is taken to a hostel until her memory returns. There she meets Ada Shaftsbury, a huge, boisterous shoplifter and compulsive eater, who takes Rose under her wing. Throwing her quite considerable weight into the investigation, Ada helps Rose uncover the trail that will lead to her identity.

Peter Diamond, Bath's top detective, is investigating a suspicious death and is unwilling to get involved. A woman has plunged to her death from a roof in the Royal Crescent, while half the young people of Bath partied in the house below. Accident, suicide or murder?

Badgered by Ada, galvanized by another gruesome death, Diamond is forced to admit that the deaths may be linked, and Rose is the key to the mystery.

Why I Picked It Up:

A love of my previous Peter Lovesey find, The Reaper.

What I Thought:

Everytime I make my biweekly trek to the library, one of the very first shelves I check is the L's, in search of another Lovesey book. To be honest, I never have much hope so you can imagine how excited I was when I saw this book sitting on the shelf. The selection is so small in the library, to find two books by the same author seems nothing short of a small miracle.

Despite the fact that there was a small "A Peter Diamond Mystery" on the front cover, I picked up the book regardless. I had faith that Lovesey would not let me down and that, regardless of what number this book was in the series, it would be able to stand alone so that I could enjoy it (unlike some books I have read). 

Well, I put my faith in the right author.

The key point of this book is all the threads and ideas that are introduced early on never actually come together until the last forty or so pages. On the one hand, we have our amnesiac, Rose, who we follow for the first fourth or so of the novel. Lovesey has created a very powerful image in Rose, describing her amnesia in such detail that you actually start to wonder how she could possibly pick up the pieces of her life. She doesn't even recognize her own face in the mirror when she first wakes up. Her total despondency is intriguing and reels you right into the plot.

Soon (but not too soon) into the book, he introduces who will become our hero, Peter Diamond. Diamond is the head of the murder department of the Bath police, a little gruff, a little over-bearing, a little bit in a competition for dominancy with a younger DCI but overall endearing and very much an everyman. He's a very fully developed character and it takes perhaps a few paragraphs to start to get a grasp on who he is. Lovesey is confident in his work and thus, although he doesn't give us background information on him, Diamond is so well formed that we can figure it all out ourselves. I didn't even know that this book was fifth in an eleven book series until I googled it just now. It could have easily been much earlier on.

As the novel continues, the reader twists and turns through Bath and a number of crimes: the attempted abduction of Rose, a young girl falling to her death at the Royal Crescent, and the apparent suicide of an old hermit out in the middle of nowhere. As the characters press on, ignoring clues, investigating dead ends and gathering information that will later become vital, the seemingly separate plots start to tell a story much different to anything you probably would have guessed.

The true genius of this novel and, indeed, of Lovesey's writing is the way that he paces the plot and uses narrative voices. He employs a few characters for third person limited point of view during early points in the novel and, as the intrigue and danger escalate, he severely limits which characters we interpret the actions through. Without even drawing attention to it, he manages to make the reader worry about characters simply by realizing they haven't been the focus of the chapter in awhile. Little tricks like this really help set the mood of the book and subtly develop the mystery. 

All in all, a few more books and I will happily start calling Peter Lovesey one of my favorite authors. I highly doubt I will find more of his work over here in Tokyo but once I get to an English speaking country again, I am officially on the case.


  1. You know, I started reading this book 2 times, but I never finished it. I think I'll start reading it again :)

  2. Glad to hear it! :) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.