The Circle by Peter Lovesey takes place in the town of Chichester, where Bob Naylor, a parcel delivery man and an amateur poet egged by his daughter decides to join the local writers circle. The day he decides to attend one of the meetings to see for himself whether he is good enough to join the other writers, the chair gets arrested on the charges of setting fire to the house and murdering a publisher who was due to publish the chair’s upcoming book on unsolved real crimes, and was also the guest speaker at the circle’s meeting a few days ago. Taken by surprise by the turn of events the other members lead by an erotic poet, Thomasine O’Loughlin, Naylor gets elected as the group’s media manager, and the man who would lead this motley group of writers-cum-amateur sleuth in unmasking the real culprit in order to help the Chair from being wrongly prosecuted as the man behind the death of the publisher.
This book was a typical prototype of Golden Age mystery, albeit set in modern times. The plot as well as being fast, also had the set up where the victim, the suspects and the protagonist belongs to the same group of people. Lovesey, if he had wanted, could have introduced a culprit later in the book. But, as the other protagonist inspector Hen Malin remarked that just as in the Agatha Christie books where no criminal is ever introduced late into the plot, and that she loves reading the Dame’s novels, its not very likely that the criminal in this plot would also be someone not belonging to the circle. And true to form it was someone from the circle. Though not very hard to guess for a seasoned crime reader, the conclusion along with the motive rings true and justified with the identity of the killer.
Lovesey, along with Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill is one of those British Crime writers whose book I enjoy reading. Though still writing in a time, where a mystery novel is not always required to have a mystery in it, or a whodunit can be easily replaced by a howcatchem and serial killers as the basis of a plot has become the order of the day, he still churns out whodunits in its truest form, full of mystery and twists with an ending which leaves me well satisfied. Just like Agatha Christie, whom the author has glorified time and time again in this particular novel, Lovesey’s novels and his highly enjoyable short stories will always be enjoyed by me without any restraints.
Summing up, this is a highly recommended book for any crime fan. It’s funny, fast paced, with a very enjoyable ending and a great character called Bob Naylor, whose poetry is in itself a treat to read.