Lay it on, MacBob

Oh Bob, Bob!  Wherefore are thou Bob? I’d be tempted to say there’s something rotten in the state of Bob Moyer’s book reviews, but he obviously had a lot of fun writing this one. And after all, the play’s the thing right? Plus, there may be method in the madness.

By Robert Moyer

STAGESTRUCK. By Peter Lovesey. Soho Crime. 323 pages. $25.

All the world’s a stage, and author Peter Lovesey has made Detective Peter Diamond a player in spite of himself.  A pop-star diva starring in the Bath Theatre Royal production of I Am a Camera suffers disfiguring burns from her makeup. Her dresser, a likely suspect, then takes a dive off the catwalk backstage in a possible suicide.  Something is rotten in the state of theatrical affairs, however. Diamond doesn’t believe it’s a suicide. As he contemplates the mystery, he turns to his staff for help, because, he says to himself, he’s “no Sherlock Holmes.”

Lovesey is no Shakespeare, either, but he knows how to put on a good show. He has collected a motley crew of characters to strut and fret a few hours upon the pages of the 11th book in this beloved series.  Center-stage is the irritable, overweight, overbearing at times, and brilliant Diamond, who does a good imitation of Holmes even if he doth protest too much.

Then there’s his staff, including the annoyingly well-informed Ingeborg, the unintended buffoon of a sergeant Dawkins just promoted to Diamond’s squad, and Diamond’s immediate superior, Georgina, a Stagestruck amateur thespian. Of course, there is the theater staff, including a lecherous managing director, a fusty wardrobe mistress, a curmudgeonly doorman, the effeminate dramaturge, a pompous patron, and the preening cry of players. They all want the case to be closed so they can get on with their careers, but then another body turns up. At that point Diamond recognizes a MacGuffin when he sees one – the dresser didn’t do it. Someone has devised a complicated cover-up.

Diamond has another, deeper problem underneath the sound and fury signifying all the theatrical proceedings. He, too, is Stagestruck, almost paralyzed by entering the theater – shortness of breath, racing pulse, all the signs of a panic attack, all related to some event in his past.  To investigate or not to investigate – he reluctantly follows up on the problem as he follows the clues toward a conclusion. The denouement arrives when Diamond faces his fears and the killer, well cloaked in Lovesey style, center-stage. Lovesey even works Agatha Christie into the grand finale.

All’s well that ends well, said a famous playwright, and Diamond fans will definitely find his latest adventure as they like it.

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