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Summary

Summary

Peter Diamond, British detective extraordinaire, must dig deep into Bath history to ferret out the secrets of one of its most famous (and scandalous) icons : Richard "Beau" Nash, who might be the victim of a centuries old murder.

Bath, England: A wrecking crew is demolishing a row of townhouses in order to build a grocery store when they uncover a skeleton in one of the attics. The dead man is wearing authentic 1760s garb and on the floor next to it is a white tricorn hat--the ostentatious signature accessory of Beau Nash, one of Bath's most famous historical men-about-town, a fashion icon and incurable rake who, some say, ended up in a pauper's grave. Or did the Beau actually end up in a townhouse attic? The Beau Nash Society will be all in a tizzy when the truth is revealed to them.

Superintendent Peter Diamond, who has been assigned to identify the remains, starts making discoveries that turn Nash scholarship on its ear. But one of his constables is stubbornly insisting the corpse can't be Nash's--the non-believer threatens to spoil Diamond's favorite theory, especially when he offers some pretty irrefutable evidence. Is Diamond on a historical goose chase? Should he actually be investigating a much more modern murder?


Author Notes

Peter Lovesey was born in Whitton, Middlesex in 1936. He was a teacher before becoming a full-time writer.

Lovesey's first mystery novel was Wobble to Death which introduced Victorian detective Sergeant Cribb. He later introduced Peter Diamond and Bertie in his novels to follow. He also writes under the pseudonym Peter Lear. His works have been translated into 22 languages and several of them were adapted for television and film.

Lovesey's works have earned him numerous awards. He is a three time winner of the CWA Silver Dagger. He also won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1982 and the 2000 CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in recognition of his career in mystery writing. He is the recipient of the Anthony Award, McAvity Award, Ellery Queen Readers' Award and the Mystery Writers of America Golden Mysteries Short Story Prize. Internationally, he has won the Grand Prix de littérature Policiére and the Prix du Roman d'Adventures.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Here's another of Lovesey's classy entertainments featuring the put-upon, slyly funny, and usually dead-on right Peter Diamond, detective superintendent of the Bath police. This time Diamond shares the spotlight with a chap who's been dead for 300 years, eighteenth-century slick Richard Beau Nash. It was Nash's talent for promotion that turned Bath into a world-class city, though it earned him a pauper's grave. Or maybe not. A headache ball flattening a building has exposed a skeleton wearing Nash-style clothes and bearing marks that point to murder. Diamond dreams of having some fun with conventional Nash scholarship, but a fresh murder claims him, and he must investigate the killing of a modern-day promoter. In hilarious scenes, which have become Lovesey trademarks, the cops traipse about, straining their patience while they interview witnesses who misunderstand the questions or would rather talk about themselves, until Diamond's eye for detail catches the tiny incongruity that brings the solution. There's plenty of suspense here action, too all told in Lovesey's effortlessly elegant manner.--Crinklaw, Don Copyright 2017 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Det. Supt. Peter Diamond has a very cold case to crack in Edgar-finalist Lovesey's fine 17th novel featuring the Bath police detective (after 2016's Another One Goes Tonight). The demolition of a condemned house reveals a gruesome find in the attic: a male skeleton, dressed in 18th-century clothes and seated in a chair. Despite the age of the remains, Diamond's officious boss, Asst. Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore, insists that he devote his team's resources to investigating the circumstances of the man's death. The corpse's garb suggests that it might belong to Beau Nash, a legendary local rake, who became known as the King of Bath after a suspicious death in a duel elevated him to the position of master of ceremonies for the city's Vegas-like entertainment and gaming. The prospect of identifying the cause of Nash's death almost three centuries earlier is daunting, and the stakes rise when the autopsy shows that the dead man was fatally stabbed. The plot is one of Lovesey's cleverest, and the book is full of his trademark wry humor. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

A demolished English townhouse reveals a skeleton dressed in 18th-century period clothing; could the body be that of that famous dandy and Bath master of ceremonies Beau Nash? In their 17th outing (after Another One Goes Tonight), Chief Inspector Diamond and his unit dig deep into Bath history to resolve the intriguing case. Also on Diamond's plate is the death of an addict who had staged a fireworks extravaganza honoring Jane -Austen and Nash. Diamond is aided-and annoyed-by friend and lover Paloma Kean, ACC Georgina Dallymore, and his stalwart team members. The Bath setting is almost a character in its own right. The wry humor (including scenes of the potbellied Diamond in 18th-century attire attending a social event related to Beau Nash) adds charm to the story line. VERDICT One of the best entries in a long-running series, this exceptional police procedural is packed with imperfect and engaging characters, sophisticated plotting, and abundantly detailed historical tidbits. A surefire recommendation for fans of Christopher Fowler's "Bryant and May" series, which is quirkier but has many of the same appeal factors, and J.M. -Gregson's crime novels.-ACT © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1   The kid was forever asking questions.      "What are those people doing, Dad?"       "I don't know, son. Just looking."       "Why?"       "Why what?"       "Why are they looking?"       "It's some kind of building site. The contractors put those high fences round for safety, but some people like to see what's going on, so they make little windows in the panels."       "What's a contractor, Dad?"       "Never mind."       "Can I look through the little windows?"       "Not now, son. We don't have time."       "Please."       "No."       The kid had been taught the basic courtesies and he was smart enough to use them to get his way. "Please, Dad. Please."       "Only for a moment, then."       They crossed the road to the billboards and of course the observation window was too high for the kid, so the father had to lift him.       "What's that, Dad?"       "I can't see while I'm holding you."       "That big ball."       "What are you talking about? Let's have a look." The father held the kid aside for a moment. "I see what you mean. That's a wrecking ball, son. You don't see them much these days. They're demolishing some old houses." This, he now decided as a caring parent, was not such a waste of time, but should be part of the kid's education. "It's using what we call kinetic energy. The ball is solid steel, really heavy and hanging on a chain from the top of the crane high above the houses. The man in control pulls the ball back towards his cab with another chain and gives it a good swing at the building, like the conkers you and I played with last year. It smashes into the wall and knocks it down." He shouted, "Wow! Just like that."       "Can I see? Let me see, Dad."       "Yeah. I suppose." The destruction was so compelling that he'd forgotten the kid had his nose to the panel and couldn't see a thing. He replaced him at the window.       "Is it going to smash the house down?"       "Not in one go. See if the ball is being hoisted back."       "It is, Dad."       "Good. Watch what happens, son." Shame the peephole wasn't big enough for two to look through at the same time.       "Crrrrrrrrash!" yelled the kid. And then on a disappointed note, "It's still there."       "I told you it takes several goes. Let's see." The kid was thrust aside again. "Yes, he's hauling it back for another try."       "Let me see."       "In a tick."       "Da-a-d."       "Hold on, son."       The ball smacked into the top floor of the end house of the terrace and produced a cloud of dust. Destruction is appealing. All along the barrier, people at the observation windows gave cries of satisfaction.       "Da-a-a-ad."       Like everyone else, the father was waiting for the dust to disperse to see the hole in the masonry.       "Nice one."       Belatedly the kid was given his chance to check the damage.       "Now you know what happens." The show wasn't over, but the father had decided it was time to move on. He lowered the kid to the ground.       "I didn't see."       "Course you did."       "Give me another look. Please."       It was true that the kid had missed the best action. The father peered through again to check that the secondary steel rope was taut in preparation for another smack at the building. "Last time, then." He lifted the kid again.       More shouts greeted another hit from the wrecking ball.       The kid said with delight, "Crrrrrrrrash!"       "Impressive, eh? That's enough, then. We've got to get on."       "Dad, what's that man doing?"       "What man?"       "The man in the house."       "There's nobody in the house, son. It's empty. It's being demolished."       "A man in funny clothes sitting in a chair. Look."       "I've told you before, you mustn't make things up." He shifted the kid from the window and looked for himself. "Oh Christ."       In the attic of the end house, now ripped open, was a crumpled figure in an armchair. The dust from the demolition had coated it liberally and it was a parody of the human form held together by what appeared to be long outmoded garments: olive green frock coat, cravat, grey breeches, wrinkled white stockings. The head, sunk grotesquely into the shoulder bones and partially covered by a long black wig, was a skull and the hands resting on the chair arms were skeletal.       "Can you see the man now, Dad?"       "I can."       "Is he dead?"       Spectacularly, irreversibly, abso-bloody-lutely dead, but you couldn't say that to a small child. "Em, he could be just a dummy like you see in dress shop windows."       "I've never seen a dummy like that. Can I have another look?"       "Definitely not. We're leaving."     In the next hour, the observation windows were more in use than ever on the demolition site in Twerton, the southwesterly suburb of Bath. People were waiting their turn for a look. All work had ceased. The foreman had called the police. A number of patrol cars and vans were lined up on what had once been a narrow road in front of the condemned terrace. But no one had yet started any kind of close examination of the occupant of the attic. Slumped in its chair, exposed to the daylight, the weather and the gaze of everyone, the skeleton was a treat for voyeurs and a rebuke for anyone who believed in respecting the dead. Normally a forensic tent would have been erected by now, giving the deceased some kind of privacy.       The difficulty was that the wrecking ball had rendered the building unsafe. The floor might well give way if anyone tried using a ladder to get near. "What we need," the senior police officer on the ground said, "is one of those basket cranes they use to inspect street lamps."       "Cherry picker," his assistant said.       "Right. See if you can get one. If nothing else, we'll get a closer look at the poor blighter."       "One is already on its way," someone else spoke up.       "You mean I'm not the first to come up with this brilliant suggestion?" Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond swung around to see who had spoken. "Oh, you," he said to Dr. Higgins, the police surgeon who routinely attended fatal incidents. "Should have guessed you'd be here chucking your weight about."       "That's rich, coming from you," Higgins said, but with a grin. He was about half Diamond's size. "It was my call, so it's my cherry picker and my duty to inspect the corpse and decide whether life is extinct."       "Isn't that obvious?"       "It's the law, Peter, and you know it."       After making a show of another long look, Diamond said, "Unless my eyes are deceiving me, that thing up there is a skeleton. He's been out of it a few years. A few hundred years, if his clothes are anything to go by. No one here is going to report you if you declare him dead without getting close up."       "Sorry. You'll have to take your turn." The doctor meant business. He was already wearing a bright yellow hard hat.       Diamond turned back to his assistant, Keith Halliwell. "What's his game?"       "Dunno, guv. Does he want a ride in the cherry picker? Some people never grow up."       "Where's the site manager?"       "Gone. They all buggered off home."       "Do we know who owns these houses?"       "Some private landlord. There was subsidence reported a couple of years ago and when the borough surveyor was called he declared the whole terrace unfit for habitation. The tenants had to leave and it was boarded up while the legal formalities were gone through."       "That figures," Diamond said. "There's an appeal process."       "Meanwhile some squatters found their way in and occupied it."       "They would."       "Finally a demolition order was made by the council and here we are."       "But a ten-foot fence makes me suspicious. There's more to this than demolition."       "Someone must have paid for the perimeter fence."       "That's what I'm saying. Anywhere in Bath is a prime site. Mark my words, Keith--some sharp dealing has been done here."       "Speculators?"       "They like to call themselves developers. And nobody thought to tell the guy in the attic."       Halliwell had worked with Diamond long enough to treat his deadpan remarks as serious conversation. "No one knew he was there. It's not a proper attic room from what I can see. I'd call it a loft."       The cherry picker trundled in soon after and took up a position in front of the gaping building. Dr. Higgins in his hard hat stepped into the basket as if he was about to lift off from Cape Canaveral, pressed the right buttons on the control panel and was hydraulically raised to the level of what remained of the roof.       "Get your stethoscope out, doc," Diamond shouted up. "We're all watching."       There was no response from above, but the diagnosis didn't take long.       Only after the machine was lowered did Higgins say, "There was no call for sarcasm, Peter. It could have been a plastic skeleton put there by students. Didn't that cross your mind?"       "Actually, no. Are you satisfied he's real?"       "I am now. Real--and well and truly dead."       "Job done, then," Diamond said. "I'll go up and introduce myself. How does this thing work?"       "Haven't you used one before? You'll need the hard hat."       "I'm not going to fall out of the bloody basket."       "Health and safety. I'm a doctor, remember."       "Ridiculous."       With so many witnesses, Diamond was forced reluctantly to comply. Being stubborn, he borrowed a white Avon and Somerset helmet from a police motorcyclist and wore it with the visor up and the straps hanging loose.       The advisability of protective headgear was proved at once. His efforts at the controls were cack-handed. There were smiles all round when the basket made a jerky ascent.       He didn't learn much from his first close look at the skeleton. The figure was well coated in every sense. No doubt it had gathered dust from centuries in the loft, and the latest covering of powdered mortar had spread over that wherever it could settle. Only in a few places did the fabric of the eighteenth-century clothes show through. The skull with its lopsided black wig was at a weird angle, supported by the left shoulder. It was toothless.       As for the chair, it could have been from any period, with sturdy wooden legs, high upholstered back and armrests. There didn't seem to be any other furniture about, but not much of the loft space was visible. Broken tiles were scattered across the floor.       How does a thing like this happen? Diamond asked himself. "I'm just going up into the loft, dear, and I may be some time." Heart attack, stroke, overdose? The poor guy had found some privacy here, for sure, but why hadn't anyone gone looking for him? A missing person must have caused some concern, even a century or more before the police were created.       The big detective gripped the crossbar and leaned as far forward as he dared for a better view. Too far forward.       To his alarm he lost balance and felt himself tipping. His face came within inches of the skull. Only by flexing his legs and hanging on to the bar did he avoid a catastrophic nosedive.       In the middle of this undignified manoeuvre, something flashed.       "Sonofabitch." He knew what it was. Should have expected it. "Keith, grab that camera."       A great picture for the papers, him in his police helmet leaning out of the cherry picker like Narcissus face to face with his reflection, except it was the skeleton. Muttering obscenities, he fiddled with the controls until one swung the boom left and another jerked him savagely to terra firma.       Halliwell had gone in pursuit of the press photographer, but with little chance of success. The age gap was probably twenty years. Presently he returned, panting and apologetic. "None of us spotted him on the site, guv. We were all watching you."       This investigation was off to a bad start.       Little else could be done that afternoon. They ordered scaffolding for the front of the building, but the crew couldn't start for at least an hour and then it wouldn't be simple. A platform for access would have to be constructed and a waterproof canopy rigged over the top.       "This is going to eat into our budget," Diamond complained to Halliwell. "It's already a major operation and it isn't even a crime scene."       "It could be."       "If it is, it's a cold case and they don't come colder than this." Excerpted from Beau Death by Peter Lovesey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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