WAXWORK by Peter Lovesey
Kirkus Star


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With a totally modern, unmannered, non-Conan Doyle tone, Lovesey somehow does the best job anywhere of time-traveling into convincing period detection. And stifled Detective Sgt. Cribb of 1880s Scotland Yard (Wobble to Death) now has his simplest, starkest case--a domestic murder with the ring of a true-crime chapter out of Roughead. Miriam Cromer of Kew Green has confessed to, been convicted of, poisoning Josiah Perceval, her photographer husband's assistant; Perceval had stumbled on some indiscreet photos taken of Miriam in her youth and was blackmailing her. But an impossible detail in Miriam's confession comes to light--a matter of keys--and inconspicuous Sgt. Cribb is tapped to reexamine the evidence (unofficially, quietly) and fill in that gap in the confession before Miriam hangs. His methodical but imaginative detection, however, reveals a world of secrets in Miriam's past--and he begins to believe that the entire confession is false. Lovesey's backtwist plotting is pure Christie, but the style, the detail (a Victorian photographer's studio, backstage at the Haymarket Opera Comique), and the deadpan horror (the hangman assigned to execute Miriam wanders in and out) is all his own--and absolutely marvelous.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1978
Publisher: Pantheon