Lovesey, Peter. Down Among the Dead Men.

NY: Soho Press, 2015.

Detective Superintendent Diamond of Bath CID has long suffered under his superior, ACC Georgina Dallymore, who demands the courtesies, tends to look down on the lower classes, and pursues budget details while Diamond pursues villains. In fact, the author paints her as a space-waster who seems to know very little about how to be a cop.

She’s terrible at conducting interviews, knuckles under to her own superior, loses her temper with colleagues she considers her inferiors, and won’t chase clues if it means risking her expensive shoes. And now she’s being asked to assist in the investigation of a possible professional ethics case in another jurisdiction, and she grabs Diamond to be her dogsbody.

You can imagine how thrilled the Superintendent is — and even more so when the DCI under investigation turns out to be his old buddy, Hen Mallin, over in Chichester, whose detective skills he greatly respects. Hen, it turns out, declined to investigate her own niece when the girl — who has now disappeared — appeared to have been involved in the disposal of a murder victim. But she admits up-front that it was a terrible, unprofessional decision, and she fully expects to take her lumps for it, and as far as Diamond’s concerned, that’s that. The question now is, why was the anonymous letter accusing her sent now, several years after the facts of the case? There’s more here than Georgina wants to bother with but Diamond knows how to manipulate her.

Tied to this is the disappearance of an art teacher at a private girl’s school in Chichester, who has been replaced by a dishy local artist of good family. The new guy invites his students out to his estate to join in the Saturday studio sessions in which he and his friends engage — including life drawing from a male model. And one thing leads to another.

The plot isn’t bad, and most of the characters are well done, especially the mostly posh art students, but I have to say, one of the later murders in the story was both distasteful and unnecessary. Without giving details, I can only say I expected the victim would turn up alive and in hiding, or something. Nope.

A worse problem is that Georgina, heretofore an occasional comic foil in the background for Diamond, isn’t believable as an actual police administrator. Even as entitled as she obviously is, she came up through the ranks — that’s explicitly stated. But with her overbearing yet needy personality and apparent lack of professional skills, I cant believe she would ever have made sergeant, much less Assistant Chief Constable. Not at all one of the better entries in this series.

Published in: on 1 March 2016 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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