Find Them Dead by Peter James

9th August 2020.   5 stars.

Roy Grace takes something of a back seat as the story focuses on the trial of a ruthless drugs baron who will do anything to escape justice. All he needs to do is lean on a couple of jurors to ensure the jury returns a not guilty verdict.

Meanwhile, back from an exciting six months with the Metropolitan Police, Grace resumes his battle with his nemesis and boss, Cassien Pewe. The brother of a key witness in the trial is brutally murdered and Pewe wants results.

The Crown Court proceedings dominate much of the story, but they’re exciting, tense and delivered with the level of detail I’ve come to expect from the author. I really felt for Meg Magellan, singled out to be the juror that will persuade the others to deliver a not guilty verdict, even though she believes he’s guilty on all counts. With threats to kill her daughter weighing on her mind, the tension and danger is palpable as she wrestles with her conscience and fears.

Then, just when you think it’s all over, the author throws in another of his masterful double twists to surprise and delight you. It made up for the moment where I had to suspend my disbelief during one scene.

While this is classic Peter James with his eye for detail, accuracy and a convoluted plot, he’s not afraid to try something a little different and tackle another area of the justice system.

I thoroughly enjoyed Find Them Dead and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys police procedurals.

Description

Ending his secondment to London’s Met Police, Roy Grace gets a tip-off about a county lines drugs mastermind operating out of Brighton. On his first day back in his old job in Sussex, he is called to a seemingly senseless murder.

Separately, Meg Magellan finally has her life back together, five years after the car crash that killed her husband and their son. Her daughter, Laura, now 18, is on her gap year travelling in South America with a friend, and Meg misses her badly. Laura is all she has in the world.

In between jobs, Meg receives a summons for jury service. She’s excited – it might be interesting and will help distract her from constantly worrying about Laura. But when she is selected for the trial of a major Brighton drugs overlord, everything changes.

Gradually, Grace’s investigation draws him increasingly into the sinister sphere of influence of the drug dealer on trial. A man utterly ruthless and evil, prepared to order the death of anyone it takes to enable him to walk free.

Just a few days into jury service, Meg arrives home to find a photograph of Laura, in Ecuador, lying on her kitchen table. Then her phone rings.

A sinister, threatening stranger is on the line. He tells her that if she ever wants to see Laura alive again, it is very simple. At the end of the trial, all she has to do is make sure the jury says just two words . . . Not guilty.

Find Them Dead by Peter James

I Could Be You by Sheila Bugler

4th August 2020.   4 stars.

A dead woman lies at the side of the road and her child is missing. Former journalist, Dee Doran, who has problems of her own, is shaken to the core by the death of her friend, Katie. But this is only the beginning of her troubles as she launches her own investigation alongside the local police.

Like any psychological thriller, there are secrets to unravel. The story alternates between Dee and Katie, past and present, to fill in the missing details, little by little. This means the pace is gentle to start with, but the suspense builds and the pace quickens to an exciting climax as the truth emerges.

Or is it the truth?

That’s the question at the heart of this story and it’s in doubt for most of this well-written novel. While I didn’t take to Dee immediately, her tenacity and friendship to Katie drove her over the hurdles and disappointments she encountered. Meanwhile, Katie’s life before she met Dee is beautifully developed and revealed, creating tension, conflict and a few surprises.

I became more engrossed as the story went on, enjoying the setting and the character development. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes psychological thrillers and murder mysteries as there are elements of both, providing an entertaining and satisfying read.

Description

A life has been taken. But whose life is it?

On a stifling hot day, former journalist Dee Doran finds the crumpled body of her friend at the roadside. Katie and her little boy, Jake, have been a light in Dee’s otherwise desolate life – now a woman is dead and a child is missing.

Katie has been keeping secrets for a long time. Years earlier, she fell for the wrong person. But he was in love with someone else; who he couldn’t have but couldn’t keep away from. When jealousy and desire spilled over into murder Katie hid the truth, and has been pretending ever since.

As Dee assists the police with their enquiries she’s compelled to investigate too. She realises Katie wasn’t who she claimed to be. Lies are catching up. Stories are unravelling. Revenge is demanded and someone must pay the price. The question is: who?

I Could Be You

Review of No Remorse

My thanks to Chelle at Curled Up with a Good Book for another lovely review. So pleased you enjoyed the story.

‘The plot is brilliant – I hadn’t foreseen what was going to come at the end! Robert takes us on a complex and intriguing journey with the wicked twists and turns that I have come to expect, and love, from Roberts writing.  No Remorse takes you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – my feelings towards some of the characters changed numerous times!’

No Bodies Review

Another terrific review for No Bodies from Chelle at Curled up with a Book

‘You can’t help but be sucked in and enjoy the ride with Kent. The novel will make you laugh in places – Kent does get himself into some sticky situations – and I really enjoy the humour throughout the book. The plot is fantastic, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you completely gripped; and if that’s not enough – just wanting to know what will happen to Kent’s animal sanctuary will keep you turning the pages!’

The origin of the series

My journey as a crime writer – Part 1

It started with a simple idea – could one person make a difference?

It could easily have been a woman, but I felt more comfortable writing about a male protagonist, especially one who was going to embody my values and experiences. I envisaged someone with a strong sense of fair play and justice, someone who would take action to deliver it.

But not a police officer. I’ve worked with the police, but I’ve no real idea what it’s like to be a murder detective or part of a Major Crimes Team. Besides, there were too many police procedurals in the bookshops and on TV. Even more now crime fiction is the most read genre.

Sue GraftonNot a private eye either. Though a huge fan of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, who inspired much of what I was to create, there were also plenty of PIs on the bookshelves and TV.

I wanted an ordinary person to solve murders – someone different, distinctive and original.

The idea posed quite a few challenges, namely credibility.

Ordinary people don’t solve murders, do they?

You wouldn’t wake up one morning and decide to solve a murder. You can’t go down to the police station and offer to investigate some of their unsolved crimes to help them out.

And where would you start? How would you collect evidence? What about personal safety?

Okay, Agatha Christie and writers of cosy mysteries have had ordinary people solving murders for years, but I wasn’t interested in quaint village murders, solved by a local resident who judged competitions at the flower show. I wanted something that resonated with the real world, something contemporary, but still a traditional whodunit.

The choices were simple.

  • My protagonist could have a personal connection to the victim, such as a lover or close relative. This works fine for the first book, but it would become repetitive and unbelievable after a few of books. It wouldn’t take long before my protagonist had no close family or friends. I’d also need a list of killers with a grudge against him and his family.
  • The police arrest the wrong person. This seems to be a favourite among crime writers and TV dramas like Murder She Wrote. Again, it doesn’t take long to become repetitive. And I’ve never liked the idea of showing the police to be inept. They have a difficult enough job already without me adding to their problems.
  • The protagonist stumbles across something that puts him in danger. This is more thriller territory than murder mystery and I can’t compete with the likes of Dick Francis and Simon Kernick.

Besides, the thought of shoe-horning my protagonist into solving murders didn’t appeal. I wanted my ordinary person to evolve as a sleuth, not set out to be one. This seemed more natural and credible – more plausible in today’s cynical world.

In the end, it all came down to the character of the protagonist.

I needed someone with strong principles and a sense of duty. This person couldn’t simply stand by and allow an injustice to happen. He was no knight in shining armour, but someone who felt he could make a difference, albeit a small one. This was a man who had a history of standing up for the underdog, battling for justice and fair play.

He would also need the means and time to investigate, to take action. Either he was rich and retired or he had to fit murder investigation around his day job and life outside work.

Slowly, my protagonist began to take shape in my mind.

He was the kind of person I would have liked to have been.

This realisation clinched the deal.

I was an environmental health officer – a law enforcer, protecting the public, improving health and the environment. I worked with the police, which meant I had contacts that could help me, like a Scenes of Crime Officer, for example. I had the skills to undertake complex investigations, interview suspects and build a case to prosecute offenders.

I occasionally investigated deaths – people who were killed in workplace accidents. This was part of my role in health and safety at work, protecting employees and ensuring workplaces were safe.

All I had to do was disguise a murder as a fatal work accident and my protagonist would be drawn into his first case.

There was still plenty of work to do, several false starts to overcome, and my ability to bring such a character and story to life.

Those are issues for future blogs.


In the meantime, if you’re interested in a complex murder mystery that pays homage to the classic whodunit, the Kent Fisher murder mysteries maybe for you. You can find out more on my website, where you can also sign up to my email newsletter.