A man (Maurice) that runs a writer’s circle is happy to finally get his book published, and invites the publisher (Blacker) to come give a talk to the circle (and make comments on some of the member’s work). Blacker says some nice things but is mostly dismissive of their work.
Later Blacker tries to get Maurice to pay for the publication of Maurice’s book. Blacker, it turns out, is an undisclosed vanity publisher.
The book opens with Blacker’s death. Maurice is picked up by the police. Writer’s circle members Dagmar, Bob Nalyor and Thomasine work together to try to prove Maurice’s innocence (with Bob the one mostly at the forefront, and Dagmar mostly in the shadows). Fellow writer’s circle members Naomi and Zach attempt to investigate the matter themselves, while using the crisis as an opportunity to come up with an e-book (Naomi is gung-ho, Zach doesn’t particularly like the idea). Eventually the police step to the forefront in the guise of DCI Hen Mallin.
This book is similar to two previous Lovesey books, “Bloodhounds” and “The Last Detective” (both in the Peter Diamond series). Like “Bloodhounds,” this book deals with a local social club. In the “Bloodhounds,” it was a club for readers, in “The Circle” it is a club of writers. The structure of “The Circle” is similar to the structure in “The Last Detective.”
Both books follow the structure of having amateurs moving through some crisis in the first half of the book, while the second half of the book is taken over by the police.
In “The Circle,” the main character in the first half of the book is Bob Naylor, a newcomer to the Chichester Writer’s Circle, who is somewhat pressured to try to prove the innocence of Maurice, who is accused of the murder of Blacker. The second half of the book follows DCI Hen Mallin’s investigation of the murders (more than one murder). Neither Naylor nor Mallin are the sole points of view in their sections, and Naylor’s point of view continues, somewhat at a lesser level, in the second half of the book.
The first half of "The Circle" is very good and riveting. When the book adds in DCI Hen Mallin near the half way point, "The Circle" begins to become a little disappointing.
When I read “The Last Detective,” by Peter Lovesey, I had a similar feeling, though there I liked the Peter Diamond character better than the Hen Mallin character in this book. The characterization of the main characters is outstanding, and even something of the personality of the first murder victim is revealed along the way. All of the writer’s circle members are given a satisfactory characterization, though the main characters have a deeper personality. The setting is well-laid out. The mystery is well-thought-out and interesting. Overall, I would give this Peter Lovesey book