Bath-based detective Peter Diamond – creation of Chichester crime writer Peter Lovesey – reaches his quarter of a century this year.
Peter marks the 25th anniversary of his first Diamond novel with the publication of his 16th, Another One Goes Tonight.
Peter admits he has had to keep Diamond’s age on hold just a little: “He would be well past retirement age for the police by now! He was reckoned to be middle-aged right at the beginning. The first book, The Last Detective, was only ever going to be a one-off, but people seemed to like him and I have just kept going with him. Really, over the years, I have quite enjoyed the challenge of writing a police procedural in my own way. You have not just got Diamond, but several other people who are recurring characters, and I have also enjoyed the challenge of finding mysteries for him, usually set in Bath but sometimes venturing as far afield as Chichester! Over the years he has mellowed a bit. He has had his personal tragedies. He is not quite the cantankerous character that he was at the beginning, but he still doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He is conscious he is approaching retirement, and there are one or two little references in the book that suggest that he won’t go on forever… because I am not going to go on forever. His team were rather in awe of him at the beginning, but things change. One member of the team went off and looked for another job because she couldn’t stand being with him!”
Usually as Peter is finishing one Diamond mystery, the idea for the next begins to take shape: “I don’t want to keep writing the same book over and over again, so it is almost like Diamond takes on a different role each time.”
In the last book, set in the Chichester area, Diamond was called on to investigate a friend and fellow police officer; in this latest tale, he is peeved at being diverted to professional standards: “To him, that is almost a non-starter. He is not that professional himself!”
But soon, the investigation turns to murder.
Diamond is instructed to inquire into a police car accident. Arriving late at the scene, he discovers an extra victim thrown onto an embankment – unconscious and unnoticed. Diamond administers CPR, but no one can say whether the elderly tricyclist will pull through.
But why had the man been out in the middle of the night with an urn containing human ashes? Diamond’s suspicions grow after he identifies the accident victim as Ivor Pellegrini, a well-known local eccentric and railway enthusiast.
But a search of Pellegrini’s workshop proves beyond question that he is involved in a series of uninvestigated deaths. While Pellegrini lingers on life support, Diamond wrestles with the appalling possibility that he has saved the life of a serial killer: “That’s the thing that interested me, this premise that he might have saved a killer. But really the first image I had was of somebody on a tricycle. I know someone who rides a tricycle, and it rather amused me!”
In the meantime, Peter is already under way with Diamond number 17: “I started it and then gave it up after a few chapters. I thought that the book was not leading anywhere, so I came up with a better idea and started again. I have still got a copy of the first one. I might be able to pirate little bits, but that’s the first time it has happened. I just felt that I was treading water and not moving at all. It was funny, but it was not really a good mystery. So I might be a little bit behind...”
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