Fourteen short stories originally published between 2003 and 2007—with one exception harking back to 1989—that do full credit to Lovesey’s reputation as a Diamond Dagger winner.
The earliest, “The Munich Posture,” places a Hitler doppelgänger in the path of a charm-school prankster. “Needle Match,” which the Crime Writers’ Association named the best short story of 2007, resolves a Wimbledon catastrophe 24 years later. The most enchanting entry, “Bertie and the Christmas Tree,” finds Prince Albert deferring to the skills of Lovesey’s Victorian sleuth Sgt. Cribb, who pops around to deal with a prostitute’s murder in “Razor Bill.” Yuletide surfaces once more in the murders of two carolers in “The Case of the Dead Wait.” Husbands are treated roughly in “The Field,” “A Blow on the Head” and “Window of Opportunity.” A son-in-law succumbs to a lottery winner in “Bullets.” And a split personality dominates “Popping Round to the Post.” But it’s not all bad news. The aged receive new hearing aids in “Say That Again,” and a mobster look-alike sports a spiffy new outfit in “The Best Suit.” “The Man Who Jumped for England” features some appealingly tricky wordplay, but the heist of a harp in “Second Strings,” with its twist on cunning twist, will linger longest in readers’ minds.
A roundup of the most genial puzzles from Lovesey (The Headhunters, 2008, etc.) presents a welcome relief from the noir psychodramas so many other practitioners have on offer.