Lovesey, Peter. The House Sitter.

NY: Soho Press, 2003.

It’s been a year since Superintendent Peter Diamond’s wife was murdered in a public park in Bath, and he’s finally beginning to come to terms with his loss, though the killer’s trial and then the appeals aren’t helping much. But this eighth book in the series actually begins with the strangling of a sunbather at a crowded beach down in Sussex, and that’s not his patch at all.

The head homicide cop down there is DCI Henrietta (“Hen”) Mallin, a short, feisty, vigorous investigator who favors evil little black cigars. No one noticed the killing when it was happening and the woman’s beach tote is missing, so it takes a while even to discover who she is. Turns out she’s a psychologist, a criminal profiler, from Bath — and that’s where Diamond comes in. Always looking for a case to sink his teeth into, he attaches himself to Hen, even though protocol puts her in charge.

Poking into the victim’s background quickly leads to the discovery that she was assisting the police with a very sensitive case, the murder of a film producer with a crossbow, which hasn’t even been released to the public yet. And that perp has left the cops the names of his next two intended victims, also very public celebrities. It’s far from the usual serial killer methodology but Diamond has a way of getting up the collective nose of his superiors in pursuit of a suspect and the case develops slowly, while they also try to keep the next two targets hidden away and alive.

It’s a nicely complex plot with numerous red herrings and the author handles it all adroitly. And when the resolution finally comes, you’ll have no complaints that he wasn’t playing fair. The clues are there if you pay attention. Oh, and the source of the title doesn’t show up until the last few chapters.

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