Daily Archives: March 14, 2011

Review of The Secret Hangman by Peter Lovesey


Maybe you are already aware of Peter Diamond’s police career in the beautiful city of Bath – but The Secret Hangman is my introduction to Peter Lovesey’s work.

secrethangmanPeter Diamond is managing as well as can be expected after the shocking murder of his wife, three years earlier. He certainly doesn’t need his boss, Georgina, fussing about him. Neither does he need the attentions of the woman who writes, asking for a date. Not that he’s got much time on his hands to brood – not after a woman is found hanged in a children’s playground, to be followed by her husband a few days later whose hanging from a viaduct in a busy part of Bath during the rush hour throws the city into chaos. Despite urging from Georgina to close the case and concentrate on the ram raids the high-ups are concerned about, Peter has a bad feeling about the hangings. The facts his team uncover don’t add up.

But only when another hanged woman is found, the nasty possibility that they are dealing with a serial killer surfaces – and subsequent events leave Diamond and his team at the sharp end of an investigation where only their efforts stand between the next victim and a horrible death…

This excellent whodunit is the ninth book in the Peter Diamond series. The character is a grumpy widower, who has thrown himself into his career to compensate for his bereavement. I very much enjoyed the parallel storyline relating to Diamond’s personal life, which merged in a satisfying twist at the end of the book. And no – I’m not saying more than that.
Bath is an effective backdrop to the murders, although it features less than Booth’s gritty Derbyshire landscape as mood music to the grisly events. Not that there is much blood and gore in The Secret Hangman – a refreshing change to the current trend both in books and on TV to make murder corpses as bloodily graphic as possible. Lovesey doesn’t need to rely on blood and guts to keep the pages turning – he is a master at keeping the tension coming, while at the same time attending to the small details that give this tale a hard-edged reality. The denouement is thoroughly satisfying – especially with the extra twist in it regarding Diamond’s personal life. I was happy to see that in addition to the ten Peter Diamond books, there are also eight Inspector Cribb tales; three Bertie books and three Inspector Hen Mallin stories.

More books to add to the stack teetering dangerously by my fireside…