As a New Year begins in Bath, Ben Brace proposes to his long-term girlfriend, Caroline. The problem is that she’s the daughter of notorious crime baron, Joe Irving, who is coming to the end of a prison sentence. And Ben’s father George is Bath’s Deputy Chief Constable. But mothers and sons are a formidable force: a wedding in the Abbey and reception in the Roman Baths are set in place before the career-obsessed DCC can step in.
Peter Diamond, Bath’s head of CID, is appalled to be put in charge of security on the day. Ordered to be discreet, he packs a gun and a guest list in his best suit and must somehow cope with potential killers, gang rivals, warring parents, bossy photographers and straying bridesmaids. The laid-back Joe Irving seems oblivious to the danger he is in from rival gang-leaders, while Brace can’t wait for the day to end.
Will the photo-session be a literal shoot? Will Joe Irving’s speech as father of the bride be his last words? Can Diamond pull off a miracle, avert a tragedy and send the happy couple on their honeymoon?
Yes, the scarecrow, painted on the cover, is on the Short List. The line-up is Peter Lovesey’s strongest ever, for not only does it feature “Needle Match,” chosen by the Crime Writers’ Association as the best short story published in 2007, but also some of his most popular detectives — Bertie, Prince of Wales, Sergeant Cribb and Rosemary and Thyme. You will be mystified by elephants in a London side street; a hearing aid heist by a gang of geriatrics; an underworld boss in search of a harp; a short, fat man who jumped for England; a brush with Adolf Hitler; and a walk on Beachey Head, the favourite suicide spot. You’ve had the call. Step up now. Surprises are guaranteed.
“Here’s another of those delightful Victorian mysteries, featuring Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray of the Yard. This one deals with peculiar accidents in various music halls, mishaps of a kind that would ruin a performer’s career; and then there’s murder. . . . Fine picture of period vice, good mystery plotting, and fun.”—
A sadistic practical joker is haunting the popular music halls of London, interfering with the actors and interrupting their acts by orchestrating humiliating disasters that take place in view of the audience. A trapeze artist misses her timing when the trapeze ropes are shortened. A comedian who invites the audience to sing along with him finds the words of his song “shamefully” altered. Mustard has been applied to a sword swallower’s blade. A singer’s costume has been rigged. The girl in a magician’s box is trapped. Then the mischief escalates to murder. Or was murder intended all along? That indomitable detective team, Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray of Scotland Yard, must track down the elusive criminal.
The identification of the woman found murdered on Whiteview Sands poses more questions than it answers. Emma Tysoe was a respected psychologist and an official criminal profiler with several successful cases to her credit. Why was she sun-bathing alone so far from home? How did she get there? Who is the mysterious 'Ken' in her private life? What was the murder weapon? Why did the man who noitce she was dead then completely disappear from the scene? When Peter Diamond is brought into the investigation he sheds some light on these matters – most importantly by discovering that she had been seconded under the greatest secrecy to work on the profile of the person who has assassinated one celebrity and is threatening to kill more. Are these killings connected to Emma's death? Diamond thinks so, but he cannot persuade his colleagues to agree with him, and even he cannot make all the pieces fit the jigsaw he's envisaged.
Peter Diamond, the traditionalist dinosaur of Bath CID, finds the low murder rate in the city a touch frustrating, so he decides to check whether a couple of suicides which his colleague is investigating have been accurately classified. On the outskirts of the city a woman is found unconscious in a hospital car park, but when she recovers she can't remember who she is or how she came to be there. Soon after she is released into the care of the local authority, Diamond has a 'proper' case to get his teeth into when a woman's body is found in the garden of a flat after a somewhat drunken party. None of the other guests knew her and it is not clear whether she slipped, jumped or was pushed, and with no clue as to her identity Diamond has a puzzle to satisfy his quirky talents. In a mystery of stunning complexity, Peter Lovesey amply demonstrates his gifts as the grand master of the contemporary whodunnit.
"A wickedly clever writer." – Ruth Rendell
Clarion Calhoun is a fading pop star wanting to launch an acting career. The audience at her debut on stage at Bath's Theatre Royal are expecting a dramatic evening – but what they get is beyond their wildest imagination. When Clarion is rushed to hospital with third degree burns, rumours spread through the theatrical community and beyond. In the best theatrical tradition, the show goes on, but the agony turns to murder. The case falls to Peter Diamond, Bath's top detective – but for reasons he can't understand, he suffers a physical reaction amounting to phobia each time he goes near the theatre. As he tries to find its root in his past, the tension at the Theatre Royal mounts, legends come to life and the killer strikes again…
On Lansdown Hill, near Bath, a battle between Roundheads and Cavaliers that took place over 350 years ago is annually reenacted. Two of the reenactors discover a skeleton that is female, headless, and only about twenty years old. One of them, a professor who played a Cavalier, is later found murdered. In the course of his investigation, Peter Diamond butts heads with the group of vigilantes who call themselves the Lansdown Society, discovering in the process that his boss Georgina is a member. She resolves to sideline Diamond, but matters don't pan out in accordance with her plans.