First Line: "Will somebody start me at five hundred?"
No one in the auction house would ever have believed that bidding on a decrepit lump of stone would go so high, but when masked robbers show up to steal it and wind up killing the highest bidder, the bizarre scene becomes truly incredible. Now it's up to Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond and his team to find the killers.
The dead man was a professor who believed the stone to be a centuries-old carving of Chaucer's Wife of Bath, and Diamond has the stone moved to the police station while its origins are being researched. Diamond takes the direct route to Chaucer's home in Somerset while a colleague goes undercover to try to track down the source of the murder weapon. Meanwhile, the Wife of Bath seems to be turning into a jinx.
Peter Lovesey knows just how to combine a fascinating historical tidbit with an intriguing investigation conducted by one of the best policemen in all of crime fiction. The dialogue and humor sparkle, the characters are individual and memorable, and the plot is a finely tuned race car.
Peter Diamond is a gem. He can be cunning, impatient, funny, insightful-- and that's on a slow day-- and he's definitely the heart and soul of his team. When asked what makes Diamond tick, one of them says
"He brings out the best in the team. A good brain, which is essential. You think you can predict how he'll handle any situation because he's a seasoned cop, and then suddenly he'll surprise you. I've never known anyone quite like him. He plays up to his image of being all fingers and thumbs and at war with technology, but I suspect he could build his own spacecraft and fly it to the moon if needed."
Yes, Peter Diamond is definitely the sort of copper who keeps you coming back, book after book.
I loved the humor in The Stone Wife, particularly when the cumbersome Wife of Bath stone is stored in Diamond's office. I was expecting Health and Safety to come bustling in at any second to add more spice to the mayhem. Unfortunately the secondary investigation into the source of the gun doesn't hold together as well as tracking through Chaucer's life in Somerset. It's almost-- but not quite-- a bit over the top in terms of characters and actions.
I've been jumping around in this series and not reading the books in order, and I don't feel I've been hampered by my peripatetic behavior. If you're thinking of sampling Peter Lovesey's marvelous series by starting with The Stone Wife, I think you're really going to enjoy yourself. Only longtime Diamond fans may feel that this one isn't one of the best in this stellar series.
The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey
Soho Press © 2014
Hardcover, 368 pages
Police Procedural, #14 Peter Diamond mystery
Source: the publisher