Peter Lovesey has been writing detective fiction since 1970 – so, basically for the past 47 years. He has written series featuring the Victorian Sergeant Cribb, the Bath-based policeman Peter Diamond, Albert Edward aka Bertie, Prince of Wales and a multitude of standalone novels and short stories, including the Gold Dagger-winning The False Inspector Dew. He’s also been a long running member of the Detection Club, and in honour of Peter’s 80th birthday, members of that esteemed body put together this, one of the surprisingly few collections of short stories attributed directly to the club.
So here we have a collection of stories written in tribute to Peter, including stories set in the eras that his books are set, some set in Bath, some tangentially featuring some of his characters, some echoing his interest in true crime and most channelling Peter’s empathy with his characters, where crimes are committed for real reasons, while still maintain that element of entertainment in the read. But short story collections are notoriously difficult to pull off. Has this one succeeded?
Most definitely. In fact, I’d say it is possibly the most consistently entertaining collection that I’ve seen from multiple authors. I’ll be honest, I was drawn to this as it featured stories from four of my favourite authors – Kate Ellis, Michael Jecks, Martin Edwards and L C Tyler. And three of those stories have been nominated for the Short Story Dagger for this year, along with one by Michael Ridpath from the collection. But being a good reader, I didn’t skip straight to their tales, but read it in order and I was very pleasantly surprised.
There isn’t a single tale that stands out as being disappointing. Admittedly, a number of the tales aren’t really whodunits (but they’re not advertised as such so fair enough), but they’re never less than being both intriguing and enjoyable.
If I had to pick one story… well, all of the nominated tales are excellent, as are some of the others (I very much enjoyed Kate’s tale, featuring a cameo by Cribb himself)) but I think the stand-out has to be The Trials of Margaret by L C Tyler. If I may intrigue you with the cracking opening sentences:
Margaret’s first thought on waking was that she had had an unusually good night’s sleep. It was only as she rolled over in bed and came face to face (as it were) with the back of Lionel’s head that she remembered that she had murdered her husband the evening before.
Needless to say, things develop further from there…
As I said, this is a cracking collection with a number of great tales. Highly Recommended, and belated happy returns to Peter Lovesey from me.