First Sentence: The night of the first murder.
At the urging of his daughter, amateur poet Bob Naylor joins a local writers circle. At the previous meeting, the group was addressed by a vanity-press publisher who’d come to critique their work; some favorably, most not. The publisher is killed in an arson fire and Maurice, the group’s leader, becomes the prime suspect. Because Bob is new and not a suspect, he is recruited to prove Maurice’s innocence, almost losing his own life in the process. Because the local police aren’t making any progress, Inspector Henrietta Mallin is sent in to solve the case.
Now here’s an opening to capture one’s attention. It definitely compels you to read on. Lovesey writes wonderful dialogue with a very natural flow and a fine element of subtle humor…”Come and meet the chair.” “Why? Is it special?” “Chairman.” “Ah.”
The members of the writing circle are a true delight and so recognizable. One can’t help but like Bob and he holds the first portion of the story together very well. One does appreciate the cameo of Peter Diamond as a segue to introducing Insp. Mallin. That said, “Hen” Mallin is a very memorable protagonist being a cigar-smoking, no-nonsense character.
“The Circle” is an unusual police procedural, but very cleverly plotted with plot twists, plenty of suspects and very good red herrings. It’s somewhat reminiscent of “Midsomer Murders” and definitely keeps one involved right to the end.
THE CIRCLE (Pol Proc - Insp. Henrietta Mallin - Chichester, England - Contemp) - VG
Lovesey, Peter – 1st in series
Soho Crime – June 2005