Monday, May 13, 2013

THE TOOTH TATTOO by Peter Lovesey

It seemed appropriate last week, when my dentist was replacing five fillings, to show him the book I was reading: The Tooth Tattoo by British writer Peter Lovesey (published April 30).

Like Lovesey's Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond, I had never heard of tooth tattoos, but my dentist told me he had done some. He then hauled out a handful of photos to show me the possibilities. My favorite showed a Canada goose on the upper molar and a bullet on the corresponding lower molar.

In Lovesey's latest novel - the thirteenth in the Peter Diamond series - an almost unidentifiable corpse is discovered in a canal. The one distinguishing feature, so faint that it was missed by the first medical examiner, is a tattoo on one of the corpse's teeth. It appears to be a quaver, or an eighth note. Diamond and his team spring into action.

But all is not well at the Bath CID. Diamond's coworkers fear that, due to the economic crisis and government cutbacks, their jobs may be on the line. Diamond's churlish behavior, even more extreme than usual, seems to confirm their fears: they have no way of knowing that he is in the midst of a crisis of his own.

When I read the first 12 Peter Diamond books last year (for a review in Books and Culture magazine, "A Rough Diamond"), I grew increasingly enamored of the burly Bath detective's exploits. The Tooth Tattoo, I think, is one of Lovesey's best. Like the others, it's a procedural puzzle, but here Lovesey pays more than usual attention to Diamond's personal life. In addition, much of the novel focuses on the relationships among the members of a world famous string quartet. (If you like music-themed mysteries too, see my reviews of Morag Joss's Sara Selkirk series and Donna Leon's The Jewels of Paradise.)

You don't need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this book. After you've read it, though, you may want to go back and check out the others. Here's a list of all the titles.

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