I bought this book because it’s set in Bath in the UK, a city I’ve just returned to after sixteen years away, which may explain why I’ve missed the previous sixteen books in this series featuring the career of Police Detective Peter Diamond dealing with crime in Bath.
I dived in to the latest book, without starting at the beginning of the series, because the idea of a skeleton, dressed in what appears to be the style of clothing worn by Beau Nash, being discovered in an attic of a condemned building in Twerton during its demolition was just so Bath I couldn’t miss it.
The plot of Beau Death is a pergola supporting an artful display of Bath past and present. Diamond does investigate two deaths in this book and finds the guilty parties through a mix of detailed police work and imaginative insight but these activities seem secondary to exploring Bath, its neighbourhoods, its history, its remarkably diverse and often eccentric citizens and of course, the phenomenon that was Beau Nash.
The book is peppered with humour. One incident that made me laugh was a pet shop owner is giving the police the code to a smart lock. She tells them her mnemonic is “Hampsters”. They look blank. She explains that hampsters are cannibals. They still look blank. Then she tells them the code (read it aloud and you’ll get the cannibal thing); 181182
I’ve been living in Bath since 1985 so I remember the Bath that the young police officers in this book think of as olden days. I recognised all the places and I remember how they used to be as well as how they are now. For example, for years Beau Nash’s house contained a restaurant called Popjoy’s (the name of Nash’s mistress), It’s been called something else for years now but it’s still Popjoy’s to old folks like Peter Diamond and me.
There’s a lot of close observation of how class and wealth (not always the same thing) work in this town and a firm understanding of how policing here has changed (there is no real Police Station in this town of nearly 90,000 people any more – the old station now belongs to the University and the Police commute from halfway to Bristol when they’re needed.
This is a pleasant, easy, entertaining read that works well as an audiobook. If you want to take a slightly unorthodox virtual tour of Bath, I recommend letting Peter Diamond be your guide.