Dead at First Sight by Peter James

24th December 2019.   4 stars.

You know you’re always going to get an original and topical plot with Peter James. With the fifteenth and latest outing in the Roy Grace series, it’s internet romance fraud and the havoc it wreaks on lonely people. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like a subject made for thrills, but when victims begin to fight back against the fraudsters the body count starts to rise.

And then there’s the welcome return of assassin, Tooth. He returns to Brighton, tasked with eliminating a couple of the bad guys by their former employer. Only Tooth’s not at his best.

Even though it lacked the pace and suspense of many of the Roy Grace novels, I enjoyed the story and the continuing struggles he has with his slimy boss, Cassian Pewe. The story’s easy to read and follow as the various characters head for the final showdown in the countryside. It looks like it could be mayhem, but Peter James always has a couple of welcome twists up his sleeve to make you gasp and smile.

While not the best of the series, Dead at First Sight remains an entertaining read with a serious message, highlighting the dangers of internet romance. There is humour, great writing and plenty of twists and turns from an author at the top of his game. He even leaves some unanswered questions from Grace’s private and work lives, so it will be interesting to see where the story goes from here.

Thoroughly recommended.

Description

You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you . . .

A man waits at a London airport for Ingrid Ostermann, the love of his life, to arrive. Across the Atlantic, a retired NYPD cop waits in a bar in Florida’s Key West for his first date with the lady who is, without question, his soulmate. The two men are about to discover they’ve been scammed out of almost every penny they have in the world – and that neither women exist.

Meanwhile, a wealthy divorcée plunges, in suspicious circumstances, from an apartment block in Munich. In the same week, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to investigate the suicide of a woman in Brighton, that is clearly not what it seems. As his investigations continue, a handsome Brighton motivational speaker comes forward. He’s discovered his identity is being used to scam eleven different women, online. The first he knew of it was a phone call from one of them, out of the blue, saying, ‘You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you’.

That woman is now dead.

Roy Grace realizes he is looking at the tip of an iceberg. A global empire built on clever, cruel internet scams and the murder of anyone who threatens to expose them.

Dead at First Sight

Dead If You Don’t by Peter James

9th October 2019.   4 stars.

When you read a Roy Grace novel, you’re guaranteed an intriguing plot with many strands and some neat twists to wrong foot you. This one also incorporates a change of pace as the kidnap of a boy brings time pressures that crank up the tension and work rate of the police.

I enjoy the detail of the police procedures and the way the author brings mundane, but essential legwork to life. The characters too are carefully crafted and believable, especially the bad guys who are particularly menacing. The story moved between the various bad guys, the victims and the police, keeping the tension high as time began to run out for the kidnap victim, leading to an exciting climax with Grace risking his life once more.

While all the author’s trademarks are present in the story, the change of pace affected the balance between the investigation and the backstory. The short time span meant there was little room for the running backstory of Grace’s family life, which was a bit of a shame. However, his ongoing battle with his boss, Cassian Pewe, reached new and enjoyable heights.

Highly recommended.

Description

Kipp Brown, successful businessman and compulsive gambler, is having the worst run of luck of his life. He’s beginning to lose big style. However, taking his teenage son, Mungo, to their club’s big Saturday afternoon football match should have given him a welcome respite, if only for a few hours. But it’s at the stadium where his nightmare begins.

Within minutes of arriving at the game, Kipp bumps into a client. He takes his eye of Mungo for a few moments, and in that time, the boy is gone. Then he gets the terrifying message that someone has his child, and to get him back alive, Kipp will have to pay.

Defying instruction not to contact the police, Kipp reluctantly does just that, and Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is brought into investigate. At first it seems a straightforward case of kidnap. But rapidly Grace finds himself entering a dark, criminal underbelly of the city, where the rules are different and nothing is what it seems . . .

Dead if you Don't

Love You Dead by Peter James

26th June 2019    5 stars.

My thoughts

This is one of the best, most enjoyable and original of the Roy Grace series so far. Faultless and accomplished, this is an author at the peak of his abilities, thoroughly enjoying the story he’s written. The joy shines through every chapter, every page and paragraph as Jodie Bentley works her way through rich husbands with consummate skill and conviction.

Then there’s the return of Tooth, one of my favourite hitmen with deadpan humour, a no nonsense approach to business and a complete lack of empathy. Tooth doesn’t do pity. Neither does Jodie, who’s more than a match for him.

At times, it seems like Roy Grace is on the sideline, still trying to resolve his last case with a serial killer still on the run and pressure from management. But Jodie’s no ordinary killer and seems quite capable of eluding Tooth and Grace, helping to crank up the tension for a fantastic finale with some heart-stopping moments.

And finally there’s the master stroke – the sign of a great author, showing his mastery of characterisation and story. I won’t spoil it by revealing what it is, but it’s inspired. To fully appreciate it, you need to have read the series from the beginning, though this book still works as a standalone.

This is a brilliant series, strong on police procedure, authenticity and original plots. The characters are beautifully drawn, whether friend or foe, and there’s always so much more going on than the murders.

Love You Dead is my favourite so far and highly recommended.

Description

An ugly duckling as a child, Jodie Bentley had two dreams in life – to be beautiful and rich. She’s achieved the first, with a little help from a plastic surgeon, and now she’s working hard on the second. Her philosophy on money is simple: you can either earn it or marry it. Marrying is easy, it’s getting rid of the husband afterwards that’s harder, that takes real skill. But hey, practice makes perfect . . .

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is feeling the pressure from his superiors, his previous case is still giving him sleepless nights, there have been major developments with his missing wife Sandy, and an old adversary is back. But worse than all of this, he now believes a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind . . . and venomous skills. Soon Grace comes to the frightening realization that he may have underestimated just how dangerous this lady is.

Love You Dead is the gripping twelfth book in Peter James’ Roy Grace series.

Love You Dead Peter James

Dead Man’s Time by Peter James

25th February 2019 – 5 stars.

I love the Roy Grace series because you can rely on Peter James to deliver a classy crime thriller with an intriguing, well-researched plot, interesting characters and plenty of tension and thrills. Every novel is different, but with the familiar threads of the backstory developing and changing with each entry in the series.

This novel has revenge and greed at its heart as the theft of valuable of antiques leads to a brutal murder that kicks off a chase to recover the most valuable and personal possession of all. The resultant mayhem and murders of those involved in the theft leads to New York for the exciting climax.

Meanwhile, back home in Brighton, a far more sinister threat lurks as a hardened villain seeks revenge on Roy Grace, his girlfriend Cleo and their baby. The tension is relentless and kept me on edge throughout the story.

This is one of many fine threads in another complex, beautifully constructed crime thriller from an author who delivers on every level.

While you can read this as a standalone, to get the maximum benefit of the characters and relationships, you should start with Dead Simple, the first in the series.

Description

Some will wait a lifetime to take their revenge. . .

A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying. Millions of pounds’ worth of valuables have been stolen.

But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that her powerful family cherish above all else. And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything – absolutely anything – to get it back.

Within days, Grace is racing against the clock, following a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922, chasing a killer driven by the force of one man’s greed and another man’s fury.

Dead Man’s Time is the ninth novel in the multi-million copy bestselling Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, from the number one chart topper, Peter James.

Dead Mans Time

Why crime novels grip me, or often don’t

9th December 2018

Like every other reader on the planet I love a good story.

I want to be taken on an exciting journey to meet new people, see new places and learn new things. Sometimes, I learn something about myself I didn’t know. Occasionally, I’m moved to tears, usually by injustice or dashed dreams.

Miss Marple photoTop of my reading list are crime novels. They come in so many shapes and sizes, with no end of new authors and styles to choose from. That in itself poses a problem of how to get a book noticed, which I’ll come to in a moment.

The whodunit sits proud at the top of my reading pile because I love puzzles and mysteries. Whether it’s Miss Marple, Inspector Morse or Kinsey Millhone, there’s something immensely satisfying about picking through clues, trying to piece together the evidence to find the key to solving the mystery.

That said, I should let you in on a secret. As I read for pleasure and entertainment, I rarely solve a whodunit while I’m reading. I want to enjoy the story, not step out of it to make a list of clues and suspects. Sometimes, the identity of the murderer comes to me as I read, but it’s not essential to my enjoyment.

Beyond murder mystery novels, my interests spread mainly across police procedurals, dipping into the occasional psychological thriller. While I loved the millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, I don’t tend to read Scandinavian noir, or any noir, come to think of it. If I want bleak I’ll watch the news.

Gritty and violent are okay if handled well and with restraint. Swearing doesn’t bother me. I know people swear, and a spot of DIY never fails to release the Anglo Saxon in me. But I wonder why some authors scatter profanities across the pages when a more selective use can create much greater impact.

And when it comes to sex scenes, my imagination can do it so much better.

I also realise there’s a lot of cruel and vicious crime out there in the world, but I don’t need to fill my head with it. I want to be entertained when I read, not depressed. That makes me selective.

While I appreciate a stylish cover, it’s the words inside that matter.

But, in such a crowded market, publishers and independent authors seem to be in the grip of an epidemic that’s infecting the straplines of crime novels.

The case of the gripping serial killer thriller’s unexpected twist of the year

Peter JamesOnce upon a time, endorsements by the likes of Val McDermid, Lee Child or Peter James were enough to create interest in a new book or author. Comparisons to Agatha Christie or another luminary of crime fiction often helped to lift a book a little higher up the list.

The message was simple – if you like these well-known authors, you’ll like this one.

But like any good idea, it’s usually overdone. The guys in the marketing department need to up their game and come up with another way to promote these books.

Cue the strapline.

This does for a book title what a mission statement does for a business.

Take a look around as you walk the streets. Traders have straplines on their vans. ‘We use copper because we do it proper’ caught my eye on a plumber’s van last week. Businesses like hairdressers and bakers have been using puns and catchy phrases for decades.

But once the publishing industry caught the bug, the disease began to infect covers like a rash.

Earlier this year, I read a crime novel that claimed it had a killer twist I wouldn’t see coming. Okay, that’s a challenge in anyone’s language. And while I’ve no wish to be smug, I saw it coming sometime before it arrived. And it wasn’t that big a deal either.

But the publisher didn’t care – I’d bought the book, hadn’t I? Well I would have, but they offered it for free for a limited period. Maybe their strapline didn’t quite have the desired effect?

Some make me smile. A serial killer thriller like no other.  All books are unique – otherwise the courts would be inundated with claims for plagiarism, surely. ‘Gripping’ has become one of the most overused words in the English language, it seems.

But the publishers cling onto it.

At the moment, there seems to be no respite for this infection, though some publishers and books appear to have discovered an antidote – a strapline that reflects the theme or issues in the novel. Whether it will help to reduce the sensational strapline claims is anyone’s guess.

I prefer accuracy over hyperbole.

No RemorseI would never make a claim I couldn’t substantiate. I could have described my last novel, No Remorse, as Kinsey Millhone meets Agatha Christie in a modern twist on the traditional whodunit. Actually, I couldn’t have done that as I’ve only just made it up, but you get the gist.

I went with Old sins cast long shadows, which was entirely in keeping with the novel. Hopefully, readers found the strapline interesting enough to look a little closer.

Maybe you could tell me.

 

Meanwhile, back in Crouch Corner, while wrestling with the first draft of No Stone – as in no stone unturned – I may have turned a corner.

Like all authors, when I approach the end of a chapter, a hook adds a note of intrigue, designed to make the reader want to carry on. This week, an unexpected twist came out of nowhere and gripped me so tight, you might have thought I’d won the lottery.

Okay, let’s stick to accuracy. This twist flowed from my fingers onto the screen. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s turned my plans upside down. I’ve uncovered the true direction of my crime novel. My subconscious has seen what I couldn’t see. This unexpected twist not only raises the stakes, it makes the investigation more personal, adding to the dangers and threats facing my protagonist, Kent Fisher. The road ahead seems much clearer now.

On the flipside, I’m not sure No Stone is the best title. I suppose I could take a leaf out of the publishers’ manual and spice it up with a killer strapline …

No Stone
A gripping murder mystery with a killer twist about a missing pebble.

No Stone
A gripping cold case that’ll freeze your rocks off.

No Stone
The gripping murder mystery of the year with more atmosphere than a disused quarry.

Okay, I’ll choose a new title.


You can keep track of my progress with No Stone by signing up to the Kent Fisher Reader Group. Simply add your details in the form on the right of the page and you’ll receive a free copy of my Case Files.

You can also follow me on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.

And if you’ve read and enjoyed the Kent Fisher mysteries, then please help by spreading the word and sharing this blog. By clicking on the social media icons below you should share this blog to your Facebook or Twitter account. Please let me know if it works. Thank you.

 

Not Dead Yet by Peter James

4th December 2018 – 5/5 stars.

Peter James always comes up with original plots that entertain, intrigue and delight. This time, it’s the world of the superstar singer/actor that gets the Roy Grace treatment as Brighton born Gaia returns to her home town to make a film.

Little does she know that there’s an embittered writer who believes his script was stolen and an obsessive fan that will go to any lengths to be number one and meet Gaia. And with a dismembered body discovered on a poultry farm, the stage is set for another exciting crime story that twists and turns as it builds to an action-packed climax.

Apart from the superlative detail the author puts into his novels, he creates some brilliant and memorable characters, getting into their minds to bring them to life with great skill. Whether it’s an obsessive fan, an obnoxious film producer or a coke-snorting actor, these characters are so vivid and believable. And then there’s Roy Grace’s team with its camaraderie, tensions and odd but likeable characters, like the anachronistic Norman Potting.

The detailed descriptions of Brighton Pavilion, the film sets and trailers and the lives of the main characters add to the enjoyment of a story that offers a couple of intriguing subplots to threaten the cosy life Roy Grace is building for himself with Cleo. I look forward to following the backstory in the next novel, alongside another intriguing investigation.

If you haven’t read Peter James, where have you been? I’d urge you to start at the beginning of the series with Dead Simple so you can follow the development of the characters through the series. It will improve your enjoyment of all the books.

(And I resisted the temptation to mention fowl play.)

Description

For LA producer Larry Brooker, this is the movie that could bring the fortune that has so long eluded him . . .

For rock superstar, Gaia, desperate to be taken seriously as an actor, this is the role that could get her an Oscar nomination. . .

For the City of Brighton and Hove, the publicity value of a major Hollywood movie being filmed on location, about the city’s greatest love story – between King George IV and Maria Fitzherbert – is incalculable.

For Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of Sussex CID, it is a nightmare unfolding in front of his eyes. An obsessed stalker is after Gaia. One attempt on her life is made days before she leaves her Bel Air home to fly to Brighton. Now, he has been warned, the stalker may be at large in his city, waiting, watching, planning.

Not Dead Yet is the eighth novel featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, from the number one bestselling author Peter James.

Not Dead Yet

Dead Tomorrow by Peter James

5/5 stars. Peter James is a hugely talented and original author at the top of his profession. Another stunning crime novel.

Description

The body of a missing teenager is dredged from the seabed off the Sussex coast, missing vital organs. Soon after, a further two more bodies are found . . .

Caitlin Beckett, a fifteen-year-old in Brighton will die if she does not receive an urgent transplant. When the health system threatens to let her down her mother takes drastic action and goes to an online broker in black-market organs. The broker can provide what she wants, but it will come at a price.

As Detective Superintendent Roy Grace investigates the recovered bodies, he unearths the trail of a gang of child traffickers operating from Eastern Europe. Soon Grace and his team will find themselves in a race against time to save the life of a young street kid, while a desperate mother will stop at nothing to save her daughter’s life . . .

Dead Tomorrow is the fifth novel in the multi-million copy bestselling Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series from number one author Peter James

My thoughts

Once again, Peter James has explored another area of crime that shows the depths some villains will plumb to make money. In this case, organ transplants. Orphaned street kids, living hopeless lives on and below the streets of East European cities, discover the promise of a new life in England comes at a heavy price.

When Brighton police recover the bodies of three youngsters, minus vital organs, the hunt is on to find out who is behind these heinous crimes. For Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who’s finally coming to terms with the disappearance of his wife many years ago, it’s the latest in a series of ingenious and compelling crimes that will test him and his faithful team to the limit.

Once again, the villains show no mercy as they go about their crimes, providing chilling examples of the depths some people can sink to in this world of ours. Thank goodness for detectives like Roy Grace, who will do everything, and then some, to stop these people and put them away. As always, the details and depiction of the characters, their crimes and in this story, the medical information, are authentic and compelling, making the story so lifelike it scares me to think this could be going on in the world.

Dead Tomorrow is another fast paced, compelling and chilling story that kept me hooked to the last page as the investigation gathers momentum and closes in on the criminals in the sedate Sussex countryside.

Peter James is a hugely talented and original author at the top of his profession.

5 stars.

Dead Tomorrow

Dead Man’s Footsteps by Peter James

5/5 stars. You can always rely on Peter James for an original and ingenious plot and story. Simply brilliant.

Description

Amid the tragic unfolding mayhem of the morning of 9/11, failed Brighton businessman and ne’er-do-well, Ronnie Wilson, sees the chance of a lifeline: to shed his debts, disappear and reinvent himself in another country. Six years later the discovery of the skeletal remains of a woman’s body in a storm drain in Brighton leads Detective Superintendent Roy Grace on an enquiry spanning the globe, and into a desperate race against time to save the life of a woman being hunted down like an animal in the streets and alleys of Brighton.

Dead Man’s Footsteps is the fourth novel in the multi-million copy bestselling Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, from number one author Peter James.

My thoughts

The more Roy Grace novels I read, the more I enjoy them. Each one has a unique and ingenious plot that never fails to deliver an exciting and enjoyable read. And central to it all is Detective Superintendent Roy Grace as his trusty team, who work all the hours needed to solve some heinous crimes.

This one’s no different, with a story that spans the 9/11 disaster in New York to the mean streets of Brighton, where illusions are soon shattered for one young woman as the story alternates between the past and the present. Peter James never fails to create frightening villains who show no mercy or lack of ingenuity when it comes to disposing of their victims.

But then that’s the trademark of these great novels – authenticity. The police operations are revealed in detail that not only takes you inside the incident room, but through the internal and external politics, bureaucracy and camaraderie essential for maintaining sanity while dealing with the most horrific crimes.

Exciting, fast paced and full of surprises, I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the events during and after 9/11. While I cannot begin to imagine the horror of being there, Peter James brought it to life with such vivid detail, the terrible impact of that day took on a new meaning for me.

And after all the twists and turns and the thrilling climax on Beachy Head, the author still managed to slip in one final twist, right at the death.

It won’t be long before I start the next book in the series – just got to get my breath back.

5 stars.

Dead Mans Footsteps

Not Dead Enough by Peter James

5/5 stars. I hope Peter James enjoyed writing this story as much as I enjoyed reading it.

Description

Appearances can be deceptive; but the truth is a dangerous thing . . .

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed at the time. At least that’s the way it looks to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who is called in to investigate the kinky slaying of beautiful socialite, Katie Bishop.

Roy Grace soon starts coming to the conclusion that Bishop has performed the apparently impossible feat of being in two places at once. Has someone stolen his identity or is he simply a very clever liar?

As Roy Grace digs deeper behind the façade of the Bishops’ outwardly respectable lives, it becomes clear that everything is not at all as it first seemed. Then he digs just a little too far, and suddenly the fragile stability of his own troubled world is facing destruction . . .

Not Dead Enough is the third bestselling title in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series from the number one bestselling author Peter James.

My thoughts

I hope Peter James enjoyed writing this story as much as I enjoyed reading it.

I loved it from the first page to the last, revelling in the wickedly devious plot that began with a murder and a clear suspect in Brian Bishop. Only he didn’t do it. He’s adamant about that. And I agreed with him, even when the evidence began to build up against up him. And then I worked it out, which increased my enjoyment as I watched the plot twist and turn, the tension build. Only I was wrong, because along came another masterful twist to sweep me into the dramatic endgame, which left me breathless by the end.

It’s a long story, but it will live longer in my memory for many reasons.

The author’s customary attention to detail not only adds realism and authenticity – it builds trust in the reader, building a bond that increased my enjoyment and admiration. After the previous novel, Looking Good Dead¸ (read my review here) I wanted to learn more about Roy Grace’s life and the mystery of his wife’s disappearance. Then there’s the politics of policing, struggling with decreasing budgets, concerns about how the Crown Prosecution Service will view the case – still highly relevant and part of the climate today.

All these factors support and enhance a terrific plot and crime story that I would recommend to anyone.

Peter James is a writer at the top of his game and an inspiration.

5 stars

February 2018

Not Dead Enough

Looking Good Dead by Peter James

December 2017

5/5 stars. Peter James’ meticulous research is legendary, creating a world filled with memorable characters and authentic detail

Description

One single act of kindness becomes an endless reign of terror. . .

Tom Bryce did what any decent person would do. But within hours of picking up the CD that had been left behind on the train seat next to him, and attempting to return it to its owner, he is the sole witness to a vicious murder. Then his young family are threatened with their lives if he goes to the police. But supported by his wife, Kellie, he bravely makes a statement to the murder enquiry team headed by Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a man with demons of his own to contend with.

And from that moment the killing of the Bryce family becomes a mere formality – and a grisly attraction. Notice of Kellie and Tom’s deaths has already been posted on the internet. You can log on and see them on a website. They are looking good dead.

My thoughts

As Peter James has written 13 novels in the Roy Grace series, I’ve joined the party a little late, but that hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment. I liked the imaginative premise and storyline and plot of Dead Simple, the first Roy Grace novel, but loved Looking Good Dead.

With great skill and insight, the author weaves in the details that bring Roy Grace and his demons vividly to life. The disappearance of his wife, Sandy, still troubles him and prevents him from moving on. His admission of consulting a psychic medium for help with a case has become national news with the media ridiculing both Grace and Sussex Police. Naturally, his boss isn’t amused, threatening to transfer him away from his beloved Brighton unless he solves the case of the dismembered body, found headless in a field.

After finding a CD on a train, Tom Bryce, reports the vicious killing he finds on the disc and makes himself and his family targets for the killers.

Peter James’ meticulous research is legendary, and allows him to create a world filled with memorable characters and authentic detail. He took me into the heart of an incident room to follow the officers in the squad and their relationships with each other as they work tirelessly, often at great cost to their personal lives, to bring killers to justice. It adds both depth and authenticity to this thriller, as officers race against time to prevent more deaths.

The mix of personal and professional lives, combined with comment on modern policing, media hostility and funding cuts, created a vivid picture of the police today, and the additional struggles officers face in carrying out their duties. Mix in an original plot, populated by some truly evil killers and this novel delivers on every level.

While I may have arrived late, I’m certainly enjoying the party and looking forward to spending a lot more time there.

5/5 stars

Looking Good Dead