Beau Death by Peter LoveseyBeau Death by Peter Lovesey

Beau Death

byPeter Lovesey

Paperback | October 16, 2018

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Peter Diamond, British detective extraordinaire, must dig deep into Bath history to ferret out the secrets of one of its most famous (and scandalous) icons: Richard “Beau” Nash, who might be the victim of a centuries old murder.

Bath, England: A wrecking crew is demolishing a row of townhouses in order to build a grocery store when they uncover a skeleton in one of the attics. The dead man is wearing authentic 1760s garb and on the floor next to it is a white tricorn hat—the ostentatious signature accessory of Beau Nash, one of Bath’s most famous historical men-about-town, a fashion icon and incurable rake who, some say, ended up in a pauper’s grave. Or did the Beau actually end up in a townhouse attic? The Beau Nash Society will be all in a tizzy when the truth is revealed to them.

Superintendent Peter Diamond, who has been assigned to identify the remains, starts making discoveries that turn Nash scholarship on its ear. But one of his constables is stubbornly insisting the corpse can’t be Nash’s—the non-believer threatens to spoil Diamond’s favorite theory, especially when he offers some pretty irrefutable evidence. Is Diamond on a historical goose chase? Should he actually be investigating a much more modern murder?
Peter Lovesey is the author of more than thirty highly praised mystery novels. He has been awarded the CWA Gold and Silver Daggers, the Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement, the Strand Magazine Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards, and many other honors. He lives in West Sussex, England.
Title:Beau DeathFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:416 pages, 7.49 × 4.98 × 1.09 inShipping dimensions:7.49 × 4.98 × 1.09 inPublished:October 16, 2018Publisher:Soho PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616959746

ISBN - 13:9781616959746


Read from the Book

1   The kid was forever asking questions.      “What are those people doing, Dad?”       “I don’t know, son. Just looking.”       “Why?”       “Why what?”       “Why are they looking?”       “It’s some kind of building site. The contractors put those high fences round for safety, but some people like to see what’s going on, so they make little windows in the panels.”       “What’s a contractor, Dad?”       “Never mind.”       “Can I look through the little windows?”       “Not now, son. We don’t have time.”       “Please.”       “No.”       The kid had been taught the basic courtesies and he was smart enough to use them to get his way. “Please, Dad. Please.”       “Only for a moment, then.”       They crossed the road to the billboards and of course the observation window was too high for the kid, so the father had to lift him.       “What’s that, Dad?”       “I can’t see while I’m holding you.”       “That big ball.”       “What are you talking about? Let’s have a look.” The father held the kid aside for a moment. “I see what you mean. That’s a wrecking ball, son. You don’t see them much these days. They’re demolishing some old houses.” This, he now decided as a caring parent, was not such a waste of time, but should be part of the kid’s education. “It’s using what we call kinetic energy. The ball is solid steel, really heavy and hanging on a chain from the top of the crane high above the houses. The man in control pulls the ball back towards his cab with another chain and gives it a good swing at the building, like the conkers you and I played with last year. It smashes into the wall and knocks it down.” He shouted, “Wow! Just like that.”       “Can I see? Let me see, Dad.”       “Yeah. I suppose.” The destruction was so compelling that he’d forgotten the kid had his nose to the panel and couldn’t see a thing. He replaced him at the window.       “Is it going to smash the house down?”       “Not in one go. See if the ball is being hoisted back.”       “It is, Dad.”       “Good. Watch what happens, son.” Shame the peephole wasn’t big enough for two to look through at the same time.       “Crrrrrrrrash!” yelled the kid. And then on a disappointed note, “It’s still there.”       “I told you it takes several goes. Let’s see.” The kid was thrust aside again. “Yes, he’s hauling it back for another try.”       “Let me see.”       “In a tick.”       “Da-a-d.”       “Hold on, son.”       The ball smacked into the top floor of the end house of the terrace and produced a cloud of dust. Destruction is appealing. All along the barrier, people at the observation windows gave cries of satisfaction.       “Da-a-a-ad.”       Like everyone else, the father was waiting for the dust to disperse to see the hole in the masonry.       “Nice one.”       Belatedly the kid was given his chance to check the damage.       “Now you know what happens.” The show wasn’t over, but the father had decided it was time to move on. He lowered the kid to the ground.       “I didn’t see.”       “Course you did.”       “Give me another look. Please.”       It was true that the kid had missed the best action. The father peered through again to check that the secondary steel rope was taut in preparation for another smack at the building. “Last time, then.” He lifted the kid again.       More shouts greeted another hit from the wrecking ball.       The kid said with delight, “Crrrrrrrrash!”       “Impressive, eh? That’s enough, then. We’ve got to get on.”       “Dad, what’s that man doing?”       “What man?”       “The man in the house.”       “There’s nobody in the house, son. It’s empty. It’s being demolished.”       “A man in funny clothes sitting in a chair. Look.”       “I’ve told you before, you mustn’t make things up.” He shifted the kid from the window and looked for himself. “Oh Christ.”       In the attic of the end house, now ripped open, was a crumpled figure in an armchair. The dust from the demolition had coated it liberally and it was a parody of the human form held together by what appeared to be long outmoded garments: olive green frock coat, cravat, grey breeches, wrinkled white stockings. The head, sunk grotesquely into the shoulder bones and partially covered by a long black wig, was a skull and the hands resting on the chair arms were skeletal.       “Can you see the man now, Dad?”       “I can.”       “Is he dead?”       Spectacularly, irreversibly, abso-bloody-lutely dead, but you couldn’t say that to a small child. “Em, he could be just a dummy like you see in dress shop windows.”       “I’ve never seen a dummy like that. Can I have another look?”       “Definitely not. We’re leaving.”     In the next hour, the observation windows were more in use than ever on the demolition site in Twerton, the southwesterly suburb of Bath. People were waiting their turn for a look. All work had ceased. The foreman had called the police. A number of patrol cars and vans were lined up on what had once been a narrow road in front of the condemned terrace. But no one had yet started any kind of close examination of the occupant of the attic. Slumped in its chair, exposed to the daylight, the weather and the gaze of everyone, the skeleton was a treat for voyeurs and a rebuke for anyone who believed in respecting the dead. Normally a forensic tent would have been erected by now, giving the deceased some kind of privacy.       The difficulty was that the wrecking ball had rendered the building unsafe. The floor might well give way if anyone tried using a ladder to get near. “What we need,” the senior police officer on the ground said, “is one of those basket cranes they use to inspect street lamps.”       “Cherry picker,” his assistant said.       “Right. See if you can get one. If nothing else, we’ll get a closer look at the poor blighter.”       “One is already on its way,” someone else spoke up.       “You mean I’m not the first to come up with this brilliant suggestion?” Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond swung around to see who had spoken. “Oh, you,” he said to Dr. Higgins, the police surgeon who routinely attended fatal incidents. “Should have guessed you’d be here chucking your weight about.”       “That’s rich, coming from you,” Higgins said, but with a grin. He was about half Diamond’s size. “It was my call, so it’s my cherry picker and my duty to inspect the corpse and decide whether life is extinct.”       “Isn’t that obvious?”       “It’s the law, Peter, and you know it.”       After making a show of another long look, Diamond said, “Unless my eyes are deceiving me, that thing up there is a skeleton. He’s been out of it a few years. A few hundred years, if his clothes are anything to go by. No one here is going to report you if you declare him dead without getting close up.”       “Sorry. You’ll have to take your turn.” The doctor meant business. He was already wearing a bright yellow hard hat.       Diamond turned back to his assistant, Keith Halliwell. “What’s his game?”       “Dunno, guv. Does he want a ride in the cherry picker? Some people never grow up.”       “Where’s the site manager?”       “Gone. They all buggered off home.”       “Do we know who owns these houses?”       “Some private landlord. There was subsidence reported a couple of years ago and when the borough surveyor was called he declared the whole terrace unfit for habitation. The tenants had to leave and it was boarded up while the legal formalities were gone through.”       “That figures,” Diamond said. “There’s an appeal process.”       “Meanwhile some squatters found their way in and occupied it.”       “They would.”       “Finally a demolition order was made by the council and here we are.”       “But a ten-foot fence makes me suspicious. There’s more to this than demolition.”       “Someone must have paid for the perimeter fence.”       “That’s what I’m saying. Anywhere in Bath is a prime site. Mark my words, Keith—some sharp dealing has been done here.”       “Speculators?”       “They like to call themselves developers. And nobody thought to tell the guy in the attic.”       Halliwell had worked with Diamond long enough to treat his deadpan remarks as serious conversation. “No one knew he was there. It’s not a proper attic room from what I can see. I’d call it a loft.”       The cherry picker trundled in soon after and took up a position in front of the gaping building. Dr. Higgins in his hard hat stepped into the basket as if he was about to lift off from Cape Canaveral, pressed the right buttons on the control panel and was hydraulically raised to the level of what remained of the roof.       “Get your stethoscope out, doc,” Diamond shouted up. “We’re all watching.”       There was no response from above, but the diagnosis didn’t take long.       Only after the machine was lowered did Higgins say, “There was no call for sarcasm, Peter. It could have been a plastic skeleton put there by students. Didn’t that cross your mind?”       “Actually, no. Are you satisfied he’s real?”       “I am now. Real—and well and truly dead.”       “Job done, then,” Diamond said. “I’ll go up and introduce myself. How does this thing work?”       “Haven’t you used one before? You’ll need the hard hat.”       “I’m not going to fall out of the bloody basket.”       “Health and safety. I’m a doctor, remember.”       “Ridiculous.”       With so many witnesses, Diamond was forced reluctantly to comply. Being stubborn, he borrowed a white Avon and Somerset helmet from a police motorcyclist and wore it with the visor up and the straps hanging loose.       The advisability of protective headgear was proved at once. His efforts at the controls were cack-handed. There were smiles all round when the basket made a jerky ascent.       He didn’t learn much from his first close look at the skeleton. The figure was well coated in every sense. No doubt it had gathered dust from centuries in the loft, and the latest covering of powdered mortar had spread over that wherever it could settle. Only in a few places did the fabric of the eighteenth-century clothes show through. The skull with its lopsided black wig was at a weird angle, supported by the left shoulder. It was toothless.       As for the chair, it could have been from any period, with sturdy wooden legs, high upholstered back and armrests. There didn’t seem to be any other furniture about, but not much of the loft space was visible. Broken tiles were scattered across the floor.       How does a thing like this happen? Diamond asked himself. “I’m just going up into the loft, dear, and I may be some time.” Heart attack, stroke, overdose? The poor guy had found some privacy here, for sure, but why hadn’t anyone gone looking for him? A missing person must have caused some concern, even a century or more before the police were created.       The big detective gripped the crossbar and leaned as far forward as he dared for a better view. Too far forward.       To his alarm he lost balance and felt himself tipping. His face came within inches of the skull. Only by flexing his legs and hanging on to the bar did he avoid a catastrophic nosedive.       In the middle of this undignified manoeuvre, something flashed.       “Sonofabitch.” He knew what it was. Should have expected it. “Keith, grab that camera.”       A great picture for the papers, him in his police helmet leaning out of the cherry picker like Narcissus face to face with his reflection, except it was the skeleton. Muttering obscenities, he fiddled with the controls until one swung the boom left and another jerked him savagely to terra firma.       Halliwell had gone in pursuit of the press photographer, but with little chance of success. The age gap was probably twenty years. Presently he returned, panting and apologetic. “None of us spotted him on the site, guv. We were all watching you.”       This investigation was off to a bad start.       Little else could be done that afternoon. They ordered scaffolding for the front of the building, but the crew couldn’t start for at least an hour and then it wouldn’t be simple. A platform for access would have to be constructed and a waterproof canopy rigged over the top.       “This is going to eat into our budget,” Diamond complained to Halliwell. “It’s already a major operation and it isn’t even a crime scene.”       “It could be.”       “If it is, it’s a cold case and they don’t come colder than this.”

Editorial Reviews

Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement Recipient Mystery Writers of America 2018 GrandmasterPraise for Beau Death"Witty, stylish and a bit of a rogue—that's what people said about Richard Nash, known as the Beau, the notorious dandy who transformed the English city of Bath into 'the 18th century equivalent of Vegas.' The same might be said of Peter Lovesey, whose elegant mysteries pay tribute to the past glories of this beautiful city." —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review "Peter Lovesey—the dean of English mystery novelists—remains as ingenious as ever in Beau Death." —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post"If you like real history turned into crime clues, this is your book . . . This is a great puzzle plot that will keep you guessing. Just what Lovesey does best."—The Globe & Mail"Peter Lovesey rarely puts a foot wrong." —The Daily Mail UK"For Anglophiles who like to leaven their whodunits with laughter, it’s hard to imagine a more pleasurable way to read away the long hours of a quiet, wintry night."—Richmond Times-Dispatch"The book, I am happy to say, is as tightly plotted and absorbing as the best of Lovesey’s long-running series."—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times"Lovesey employs his dry, caustic humor to cutting effect."—Chicago Tribune"I always look forward to new entries in this series." —Salem Macknee, The News & Observer "Highly readable . . .  Mr. Lovesey moves from a hilarious launching of the plot to a delectable collection of vivid characters and an avalanche of clues." —The Washington Times "Peter Lovesey writes at a consistently high level of crime fiction that never ceases to please and astonish."—Crime Time UK"Astonishingly consistent and endlessly inventive."—The Morning Star UK"Lovesey moves from one dexterously nested puzzle to the next with all the confidence of a magician who knows the audience won't see through his deceptions no matter how slowly he unveils them."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review"One of the best entries in a long-running series, this exceptional police procedural is packed with imperfect and engaging characters, sophisticated plotting, and abundantly detailed historical tidbits."—Library Journal, Starred Review"The intricate series of plot lines is seamlessly interwoven at the charged conclusion. Lovesey seems to have outdone himself with the labyrinthine maze of multiple murders and mysterious conundrums." —The Strand Magazine "There’s plenty of suspense here—action, too—all told in Lovesey’s effortlessly elegant manner."—Booklist"The plot is one of Lovesey’s cleverest, and the book is full of his trademark wry humor."—Publishers Weekly"Lovesey's signature understated humor, often historical and at times hysterical, finds its way onto pretty much every page."—BookPage"An intricate and multi-layered puzzle . . . Diamond's dry wit and perspicacity adds welcome levity to the story." —Shelf Awareness "Simply terrific. . . The humor is dry, but it is there in spades, as is the clever, puzzling and unforgettable mystery that beats steadily throughout the story."—BookReporter"Peter Lovesey's characterisation, humour, and plotting are key, and I'm glad to report that these elements are here in abundance." —Martin Edwards, Do You Write Under Your Own Name? (blog) "As Beau Death elegantly demonstrates, nobody is better than Lovesey at mixing puzzle and procedural. Diamond, with his mordant humor as armor, is, as always, razor-sharp, erudite and thoroughly engaging."—Open Letters Monthly"His Grand Master award is well-deserved indeed."—Mystery Fanfare"The plotting is deft and very intricate without being overdone, and the characters perform beautifully . . . a sheer delight to read."—Kittling Books"A rich and satisfying feast of eccentric and sometimes sweet, sometimes dangerous, quintessential British figures."—Kingdom BooksPraise for the Peter Diamond Investigations“Peter Diamond is impatient, belligerent, cunning, insightful, foul, laugh-out-loud funny . . . A superb series.” —Louise Penny   “I’m jealous of everyone discovering Lovesey and Diamond for the first time—you have a wonderful backlist to catch up on. Me, all I can do is wait for the next book.” —Sara Paretsky   “What'll it be today? A knotty puzzle mystery? A fast-paced police procedural? Something more high-toned, with a bit of wit? With the British author Peter Lovesey, there's no need to make those agonizing decisions, because his books have it all.” —The New York Times Book Review   “Mr. Lovesey's narrative is swift, but he takes time out for local color and abundant humor, the latter springing from the book's quirky characters . . . Lovesey is a wizard at mixing character-driven comedy with realistic-to-grim suspense. And in a writing career spanning four decades, he has created a stylish and varied body of work.” —The Wall Street Journal   “Next to Jane Austen, Peter Lovesey is the writer the tourist board of Bath, England, extols most proudly . . . The enduring draw of the Peter Diamond books derives both from the beguiling Bath cityscape and the brusque character of Diamond himself.” —NPR