Nobody is better at misdirecting the gentle reader and snaking together multiple storylines than the wily Lovesey, who in his sixth case for Peter Diamond, tendentious head of Bath’s Murder Squad (Upon a Dark Night, 1998, etc.), unearths various body parts underneath number five, Abbey Churchyard, the former home of Frankenstein’s creator Mary Shelley. While the tabloids spout ghoulish headlines connecting the bones to Shelleyan monsters, American professor Joe Dougan and his shopaholic wife Donna are hot on the trail of real Shelley artifacts, including a book with the author’s inscription on the flyleaf and her writing desk. Soon after the desk disappears from antiques dealer Peg Redbird’s shop, as do several illustrations for Frankenstein that may be the work of William Blake, Redbird dies, the professor’s wife disappears, and one of the suspects, Councillor John Sturr, produces a suspiciously unimpeachable alibi: he was attending a party at the assistant chief constable’s home. Meanwhile, Diamond ties those rattling Churchyard bones into the disappearance of a young man 25 years ago, practically yesterday in Shelley history. Before a name can be attached to the severed hands, though, and villains past and present held accountable, Diamond’s nemesis Inspector Wigfull will be hospitalized, and snoopy journalist Ingeborg Smith will switch careers and abet the Murder Squad.
Everything the cerebral puzzle-addict craves, from tempting red herrings to literary arcana to deliciously plotted surprises.