[police detective Peter Diamond is asking a new friend what she does for a living]
She laughed. ‘I’m not creative at all. I have a business supplying illustrated material for the media, pictures of past fashion basically. If someone is writing a piece about Edwardian ball gowns, for example, they look on the internet and find I have hundreds of contemporary pictures they can choose from.’
‘You collected these?’
‘It’s been a lifelong passion. Plum the schoolgirl was filling scrapbooks when she was eleven years old. When I got older I bought from dealers. Now I have the biggest collection in the country, probably in the world. Magazines, newspapers, pattern books. Someone asks for examples and I scan them and send them back in a very short time. The internet has transformed the way it’s done.’
‘And this is mainly as a service to journalists?’
She shook her head. ‘There are all kinds of requests. Film and television costume departments are always wanting ideas. There are classics being filmed all the time. They know they can rely on me for something the rival company hasn’t already used.’
‘What’s your business called?’
‘Once in Vogue.’
observations: Well, here’s interesting for Clothes in Books – this is a pretty good murder story, but this little byway certainly grabbed our interest too. Is this competition? A business we should be going into? Or a resource we really wish we had? None of the above, probably, but worthy of note. It isn’t incredibly relevant to the plot, but it gives the new couple something to talk about.
Anyway, CiB has the wondrous Ken Nye, who can apparently answer any question about clothes – see the comments on this entry for example.
The story is a clever one – murderous attacks on couples, and the search for any kind of connection between them. The denoument seems to pose a lot of unanswerable questions, but still it rattled along and it was only very late on that I caught on. Diamond is a great character: funny-grumpy-clever-rebellious is a standard collection of cop attributes, but Lovesey has done an excellent job in making Diamond distinctive over a whole series of books. I liked his disappointment that the first victim worked as a waitress: ‘a simple case was suddenly complicated by Italian waiters and restaurant customers.’ When a cake is being shared round at the police station, to cut it up they use ‘a flick-knife confiscated from a nine-year-old. It’ll do.’ And there’s a charming scene at an old people’s teadance, complete with a former colleague who is making out with the ladies and tells Diamond: ‘They think I was something in the secret service. Do me a favour and play along if anyone asks.’
You might well think the picture was of Clothes in Books at work at her desk, properly dressed for the home office, choosing just the right image for the latest blog entry. An easy mistake to make. In fact it shows Lilly Dache, a major hat designer whom I had never heard of a year ago, but who now keeps popping up on the blog. Perhaps there is some excuse for a milliner to wear a hat while working (“Now, does it get in my way as I peer at this design, could it be more practical?”) but I fear the truth is that fashion people just did wear hats indoors in those days. Photograph from Dovima is Devine.