STAGESTRUCK by Peter Lovesey

Book Quote:

“In this job, sweetie, you take whatever chance comes your way.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage  (JUN 15, 2011)

Stagestruck is the 11th novel in the Peter Diamond detective series. I’d read exactly zero in the series when I opened the book, but the fact that I arrived late on the scene, and that I’m a novice when it comes to the facts of Diamond’s life, did not act as a deterrent to my enjoyment. Stagestruck is a police procedural set in the historic city of Bath, and for its setting and focus on the very real Theatre Royal, this is a novel that is certain to be enjoyed by anglophile mystery fans. Pervasive local flavour seeps through these pages as Diamond visits neighbourhood pubs, local landmarks and soaks up the legendary ghost stories are part of the history of the Theatre Royal. Local colour is so strong, in fact, that for mystery lovers, Stagestruck is a tantalizing way for visitors to Bath to prime for tourism.

Diamond, who has a mysterious lifelong abhorrence of theaters, is assigned to investigate a case involving the disfiguring of Pop diva Clarice Clarion–a crime that occurred in Bath’s Theatre Royal. Although Clarice is a wealthy woman, she’s also aging and is on the verge of a washed-up career. She took the role of Sally Bowles in a production of I am a Camera as a way to segue into a different career phase. Rumour has it that Clarice can’t act her way out of a paper bag, but due to her mega-star status, the play opens to a sold-out house. The theater trustees are anticipating a phenomenal success at the box office, but Clarice’s performance is brought to an abrupt end when moments after stepping onto the stage, she begins clawing at her face. Clarice is rushed to the hospital while the understudy takes her place. Doctors later determine that someone tampered with Clarice’s make-up and that this vicious act will leave Clarice with permanent scars.

Enter Peter Diamond, the overweight Detective Superintendent who must balance the temperamental crew at the theater with the demands of his star-struck boss, assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore. Dallymore, who hopes to win a role in a local production of Sweeney Todd, foists a particularly difficult sergeant on Diamond as a way to curry favour for the acting role. To Diamond, everyone is “stagestruck” and in awe of the glamour surrounding those attached to theater. Diamond, however, is not the least bit impressed with the theater crowd; he wants to solve the crime and move on. At first the case of the tampered make-up hints at an easy solution, but the situation becomes grimmer when a body is found. While libidinous theater director, Hedley Shearman assures Diamond that the actors are really one big happy family, the discovery of a corpse inside the theater argues otherwise, and as Diamond investigates the crime, he discovers a veritable Peyton Place of scandal amongst the actors and support staff.

Stagestruck strikes a good balance between police procedural and character development while also maintaining a strong sense of time and place. Lovesey’s portrayal of the theater set is infused with self-focused, idiosyncratic characters and Diamond, a gruff curmudgeon at times, finds that he must wade through the histrionics of inflated egos and cut-throat attitudes in order to develop a list of suspects. The theater world of illusion and make-believe is in direct contrast to the pragmatic police investigation and Diamond’s tenacious attitude to those he must question. Although there are only a handful of characters, Lovesey’s villain is not easy to spot, and this make a refreshing change that defies the fatal flaw of many police procedural novels.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 55 readers
PUBLISHER: Soho Crime (June 14, 2011)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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Written as Peter Lear:

  • Golden Girl (1977)
  • Spider Girl (1980)
  • The Secret of Spandau (1986)

June 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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