Showstopper

Showstopper

by Peter Lovesey
Showstopper

Showstopper

by Peter Lovesey

Paperback

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Overview

The cast and crew of a hit British TV show are rumored to be cursed—but are these spooky deaths coincidences or murder? It's up to Bath detective Peter Diamond to find out.

In the six years since the start of the hit British TV show Swift, its cast and crew have been plagued by misfortune, beginning with the star actress’s pulling out of the show before it began. By now there have been multiple injuries by fall, fire, or drowning; two deaths; and two missing persons cases.

The media quickly decides it’s a curse, but who’s to say there isn’t a criminal conspiracy afoot? Now that the filming has moved to Bath, Peter Diamond, Chief of the Avon and Somerset Murder Squad, is on the case. While the investigation into one fatal accident is underway, a cameraman goes missing, challenging even the most credulous to wonder if he might have been the victim of foul play rather than a jinx. How can so many things go wrong on one set in such a short time?

Complicating already complex matters is the fact that Diamond’s boss is trying her best to get him out of her hair; he may be forced to retire if he can’t solve the case. Will this be the end for Peter Diamond?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641295284
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/14/2023
Series: Peter Diamond Series , #21
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 77,982
Product dimensions: 5.49(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Peter Lovesey is the author of more than thirty highly praised mystery novels. He has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America and has been awarded the CWA Gold and Silver Daggers, the Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement, the Strand Magazine Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards, and many other honors. He lives in Shrewsbury, England.

Read an Excerpt

1
 
The old lady lifted a black velvet bag from her sewing box, loosened the cord and took out a silver Smith and Wesson revolver. With a smile any other old lady would bestow on a new grandchild, she murmured, “Little beauty.” Then, slick as a gunslinger in the Old West, she twirled the weapon twice around her trigger finger, turned at surprising speed, steadied her grip with her free hand and took aim at her reflection in the dressing table mirror. Three explosive bursts came not from the gun, but the corner of her mouth. She held the pose for five more seconds.
    “And cut. Well done, Daisy.”
     “Is that it?” the old lady enquired.
     “That’s it, darling—and a very good ‘it,’ as always.”
     “Am I free to go?”
     “For you, Daisy, it’s a wrap.”
     Daisy Summerfield glanced up at the control room and smiled her thanks. Her contribution to another season of the TV crime series Swift was over. She handed the gun to one of the young people on the crew, who returned it to the bag and stowed it away. They’d done her a huge favour, fitting in her extra scene when the call sheet said she’d be filming again in the morning. The end of each day was supposed to be for re-shooting small mistakes, known as pick-ups. Her scene was a solo one and she had made sure she needed only one take.
     She was well pleased. Instead of spending another night in the hotel, she was going home. Richmond, in Surrey, was more than two hours’ drive from the Bottle Yard studios in Bristol. Vicky, the ever-reliable production assistant, would order a car and by the time Daisy had cleaned off the makeup and changed into her own clothes her driver would be waiting.
     The gun-twirling trick had taken hours of practice with an imitation weapon they’d given her, a perfect replica of the Smith and Wesson. She had professional pride in getting things right. She hadn’t ever handled a firearm before getting the role of Caitlin Swift’s ex-gangster mother. The casting director had looked at her slightly arthritic fingers and asked if she was willing to take it on. “What’s the problem?” she had said. “I’m a professional. I won’t let you down.”
     The first part of her career had been stage work. Only in her late forties had she started in television with a small part in Coronation Street in the days when they still filmed on the back lot at the Granada Studios in Manchester. Experience in Corrie was a badge of honour and she’d scarcely rested since. Never a starring role, but enough speaking parts to make her a familiar face and give her a comfortable lifestyle in a nice house in Surrey stuffed with period furniture. She had a collection of jewellery—the real thing—that helped to make the passing years tolerable.
     She was seventy-four now and enjoying her best role ever. Viv Swift wasn’t your stock elderly mum. She was larger than life (about 30 pounds larger), hard-drinking, never without a cigarette and with a deplorable past that brought colour to every episode. Arch-criminals walked in and out of her scenes and treated her as their matriarch. Often she was ahead of her delinquent daughter in planning the next heist. And the viewers loved it. She got fan-mail from scores of elderly ladies who believed she really did know how to rob a bank and wished they had the nerve to do the same.
     In real life, Daisy was law-abiding and careful of her health. She just hoped she would be fit for the next series. She hadn’t told anyone about her heart murmur. She wouldn’t have known she had one if Dr. Patel hadn’t insisted on using his stethoscope. He had said the condition wasn’t unusual as one grew more senior and let oneself go a bit (such tact: he was much too refined to use the word “obese”) and some people acquired a murmur in early life, the type of murmur that clinicians called
“innocent,” and still lived to a great age. She hoped hers was innocent. However, Dr. Patel had asked her to see a consultant in case it wasn’t, and she was on a waiting list. With luck she would get her appointment and be declared innocent before the next season and no one from Bottle Yard would know.
     The private car looked the same as usual, a shiny black limousine with chilled bottles of water and packets of salted peanuts stored in the armrest along with a selection of newspapers and glossy magazines, but Daisy didn’t recognise the driver, who looked rather like one of the grim-featured men she acted with, powerfully built, with damaged skin across much of his face, as if someone had thrown acid at him. He picked up her holdall and said, “I’m Gerald, ma’am. Would you like this on the seat beside you or shall I stow it away?”
     The mouth moved strangely when he spoke, but the voice was liquid honey.
     She looked straight into his eyes, ignoring his poor face. She wasn’t an actor for nothing. “On the seat will do nicely, thank you.” Out of courtesy she started to introduce herself and was stopped.
     “I know who you are, ma’am. I’ve watched the show since it started. I’m quite a fan, in fact—honoured to have you as my passenger. Just to confirm, it’s Richmond, isn’t it?”
     “Yes. Richmond upon Thames. The one in Yorkshire would be a long drive.”
     His mouth twitched in what may have been a smile. Down the left side his skin couldn’t stretch at all. “It’s quiet on the roads now. I should get you home by midnight.”
     She squeezed in, plumped herself into the back seat, emitted a sigh of relief and let him find his way through Bristol’s maze of streets. She hardly ever saw much of the city because most of the location scenes were shot in Bath. When they reached the motorway, Gerald spoke again. “I can make it warmer if you wish, ma’am.”
     “Thank you, but it’s just right.”
     “Would you care for some music?”
     “No thank you,” Daisy said. “I enjoy silence. I’m perfectly happy with no sound at all.” She hoped he got the message. His remark about being a fan had sounded a warning bell. She didn’t want two hours of being quizzed about the show.
     She need not have worried. The next thing she was aware of was Gerald’s silky voice saying, “Quite busy here for the time of night, ma’am.” She looked out of the window and they were already off the motorway and across the river and heading down Kew Bridge Road. Her concern about him had been unfounded. She must have slept for the best part of two hours.
     She straightened up in the seat and drank some water. “Gerald, did they tell you my address?”
     “The Vineyard?”
     “That’s correct. I must have dozed off.” Now she was so near home, she felt she owed him something in the way of personal chat. After all, he’d said he was a fan. Speaking to the back of his head was easier than looking into the damaged face. “I tell myself I can cope with the hours they work, but I’m glad of a rest by the end of the day.”
     “Aren’t we all?” he said.
     “It can be as much as ten to twelve hours on set, six days a week, and that doesn’t include going to makeup. I’m up at the crack of dawn. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. And they treat me wonderfully. They have a word for us actors. They call us the talent, as if no one else has any, but they’re all wonderfully gifted people, directors, cameramen, sound engineers, or they wouldn’t last ten minutes in the job. Goodness, this is my street. You’ll see mine on the left three lampposts away.”
     She unzipped her bag and felt for her purse. The company was paying the fare, but she always tipped the drivers herself. Five, at least. Ten for really good service. She took out a ten. “You’re as good as your word. It isn’t midnight yet. You can pull into the drive.”
     “Beautiful house, if I may be so bold, ma’am.”
     “Far too big for me really, but I can’t face the upheaval of moving.”
     He drew up outside the porch. “I’ll get your bag.”
     After he had helped her out, she handed him the ten.
     “That isn’t necessary, ma’am. The company pays me.”
     “And I’m recognising exceptional service. Please accept it, Gerald. I insist.”
     He thanked her. “If I may be so bold, ma’am, I don’t think Viv Swift would be as generous as this.”
     She laughed. “Viv Swift would put a gun against your head and steal your car.” She had her house key ready. “Good night, then.”
     “Where would you like the bag?” He had a way of clearing his throat before suggesting anything extra. “I can carry it upstairs if you wish.”
     Heavens, no, she thought. No, no, no. He thinks I’m Viv, ever on the lookout for a stud. “How kind, but just inside the door will do. I can manage perfectly well now.”
     After he’d gone, Daisy closed and bolted the door top and bottom. Ten to one he was safe to be with, but you can never be sure what thoughts are in their heads. She made herself hot chocolate and added a dash of brandy. Her nightcap. Viv would have knocked back a neat vodka. Or three.
     The holdall was still by the door where she’d left it. She’d sort the washing in the morning.
     She poured herself a glass of cold water and swallowed the aspirin Dr. Patel had suggested she took each night. She was about to switch off the downstairs lights when a floorboard creaked upstairs.
     Her skin prickled.
     Be sensible, she told herself. It’s something to do with the central heating, with pipes and loose floorboards. But being sensible wasn’t any help because she’d been sensible enough to turn the heating off while she was away. The creak had come from another cause.
     Panicky thoughts bombarded her. What if someone had got in and was ransacking her bedroom, thinking she was away in Bristol? She’d seen no evidence of a break-in, but she knew from the TV series that modern burglars had clever ways of forcing doors and windows.
     For the next twenty minutes she sat in the kitchen drumming her fingers on the table, too nervous to go upstairs. How stupid is this? she told herself several times over. I can’t spend the night down here, a prisoner in my own home. It’s almost one in the morning, I’m tired and I need my sleep.
     Another ten minutes went by before she thought of a solution. She would think herself into her role as Viv Swift. True, she wouldn’t have the makeup, the heels or the fire-engine-red suit with the strong shoulders, but she would summon up the inner strength she possessed when she was in character. Playing Viv was transformative.
     She did have one confidence-giver. In the drawer of the kitchen table was the dummy revolver she’d used to practise the gun-spinning. She opened the drawer, gripped the gun and immediately felt stronger. She stood up and gave it a twirl. When the butt came to rest in her palm she was Vivienne Swift. The adrenalin coursed through her veins.
     She turned the light off and crossed the hall. Her actions now were confident and deliberate. If you’re up there, buddy, prepare to be scared shitless. She was up those stairs faster than she would have thought possible. On the landing she paused to listen.
     Nothing.
     Gripping the gun with both hands and with her shoulder to the wall, she moved towards her bedroom door. It was partially open. She gave it a kick and said in Viv’s ball-breaking voice, “I know you’re there. Face the wall with your hands against it. I’m armed and coming in.”
     There was no going back. She stepped inside, gun levelled in the shooter’s stance. There was enough light from the streetlamp outside to give a clear view as she swept her aim through a slow arc.
     Nobody.
     She crossed to the en suite and made quite sure.
     Almost a disappointment, she was so hyped up.
     She sighed, switched on the light, threw the gun on the bed and became herself again. Shaking her head at her own idiocy, she pulled the curtains and started thinking about the few things she needed to do before climbing into bed. Her night cream was downstairs in the holdall and so was her toothbrush, but she didn’t intend to go down for them. She’d shower and do her teeth in the morning. A quick splash at the hand basin would do for now.
     She had a fresh nightie hanging in the wardrobe. She slid the door back and had the worst shock of her life. She was eye to eye with someone in a hideous grinning Guy Fawkes mask.
     She drew in a huge, gasping breath and felt a blast of pain across her chest and into her neck and arms, a sensation she knew was the cardiac arrest she dreaded.
     For Daisy it was truly a wrap.

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