When the popular TV actress Daisy Summerfield is found dead of a heart attack, it’s just another mysterious “accident” plagues the production of the British smash hit tv series “Swift.” A rigger on “Swift,” Jakob Nichol vanishes from a shoot not long after Daisy’s fatal heart attack. When Superintendent Peter Diamond’s team is called in to sweep the airfield for clues, they only find Jakob Nichol’s bloody belt worn by a local tramp.
As Peter Diamond and his investigative team attempt to unravel the mystery of Jakob Nichol’s disappearance, they are hampered by several other disappearances and incidents happening to the crew of Swift. The Original showrunner died of alcohol poisoning under suspicious circumstances, two stuntmen were injured on set, and the assistant producer, Dave Tudor, also vanished without a trace. These many more strange occurrences plague the set of Swift, and the press dubbed the unfortunate events a curse.
Peter Diamond is unwilling to believe a curse is causing issues on set and begins to investigate. He finds a secret daughter, a woman being blackmailed, jealousy, international intrigue, and a murderer.
This book is the Russian nesting doll of mysteries; once one incident is explained, it opens up questions about another mystery. If you pay close attention, all of them come to a heady, deftly plotted climax.
Showstopper is a police procedural mystery. One of the book’s subplots revolves around the increasing pressure to fit Peter Diamond and his team into the fold of the image conscience police force. This subplot, which attempts to paint Peter Diamond as the last renegade who has to give up what makes him unique and exceptional, might play better to British audiences than to Americans like me. With the death of George Floyd weighing heavily on the American consciousness, the cowboy cop doesn’t inspire as much reverence as it used to. A cop needs to be accountable, and renegade cops who disregard everything for results only work in fiction, maybe not in present fiction.
Another interesting subplot is the inclusion of a disabled woman in an unconventional romantic relationship with the current showrunner of Swift. The book quickly points out that her relationship is one of mutual convenience. She is living on the fringes of society due to her lack of mobility from multiple sclerosis. When her lover is presumed killed, she moves in the tramp from the airfield. It’s weird. I agree as a disabled woman that we are often othered and can be pushed to the fringes of society, but not always, and it’s not a given. We are in committed, loving relationships and are whole people with large social circles, jobs, and happy lives. I am so glad that a disabled woman is in the story; I wonder if it was to further the theme of “different people” living on the fringes of society, and I don’t think that’s a truism. I think it’s often pushed in literature and books, and people are shocked when they see disabled people just living life. We’re only at the fringe of people who aren’t bothering to look for us. It’s a messy portrayal of a woman with a disability, and I would love to talk with Peter Lovesey about why he included it.
Showstopper is an excellent example of a good mystery with too many subplots and an author who wants to prove to the reader how clever he is. He is creative, and the story is engaging, but it’s also exhausting; we discover the truth to all the little mysteries, we have to find a murderer, we are asked to sympathize with an aging touch investigator, we have to lament the progress of the police force, we need to contemplate a lot. Hence, if you’re looking for an easy read, find something else. Showstopper will be a home run if you want a lot to chew on and several small mystery side quests.
Overall, I enjoyed the book but was also glad when the last page was read. It does make me want to read another Peter Diamond book, so if you have any favorites, leave them in the comments below. You can get a copy of Showstopper from Amazon here.