Peter Lovesey, a wily pro with long experience and a shelf full of awards, returns in “Killing With Confetti” (Soho, 336 pp., $27.95) to his series character Peter Diamond, the head police detective in (generally) placid Bath, England.
The astute, cranky and rumpled cop is even grumpier than usual. He’s been given, in his view, the worst assignment imaginable — overseeing security for a wedding.
The catch is that the bride’s father, recently out of prison, is a notorious criminal — and the groom’s father is Diamond’s superior, Bath’s deputy chief constable.
Not surprisingly, both fathers are apprehensive. They assume, rightly, that the wedding is a perfect occasion for any of a number of people to assassinate the villain.
The situation could be played for laughs, and there are frequent flashes of wit. But overall Lovesey keeps it straightforward, planting clever clues, a big surprise and a tense climax in the labyrinthine ruins of the town’s Roman baths.
“A Nearly Normal Family” (Celadon, 400 pp., $26.99), the American debut of Swedish writer M.T. Edvardsson, is a taut blend of legal thriller and domestic tale of suspense.
The titular family is facing a crisis. Stella is a rebellious teenager. Her father is a decent, calm pastor in the Church of Sweden; her mother is a tightly wound defense attorney; on the surface, they’re a nearly normal family.
But Stella is on trial, accused of murdering a flashy, older entrepreneur with whom she had a fling. Separately from each other, her parents find evidence that their daughter may be guilty. Both destroy or hide it, and Paul concocts a false alibi.
So here’s the quandary: Do Stella’s parents — especially scrupulously ethical Paul — truly believe their troubled and sometimes unreliable daughter? How far will they go to protect her? Perjury?
In Rachel Willson-Broyles’ translation, Edvardsson’s prose is solid and no-nonsense (if marred by the occasional cliché — too often, characters don’t get “a wink of sleep”).
In flashbacks, family members narrate in three parts. Edvardsson cannily withholds information while showing the cracks in the family’s facade, as each character reveals a different version of their story.
Marriage, parenthood, guilt, secrets, sacrifice, the mixed fear and joy of a teen desperate to leave the nest — these and other themes merge in a nuanced and intriguing story, although some readers might find the narration overly repetitive and the ending just a little pat.