Friday, October 29, 2010

Good read: Dead like you

Dead like you by Peter James Review

Peter James is taking over the world -- or at least the crime fiction part of it. Dead Like You, the latest instalment in his increasingly popular series featuring Brighton detective Roy Grace, has sold even more spectacularly than its predecessors, keeping crime heavyweights James Patterson and John Grisham from the number one slot in the UK bestseller lists. And after lengthy delays, the long-awaited television series is to be made -- a series that will no doubt make Grace's stamping ground of Brighton as familiar as Inspector Morse's Oxford. So what is the secret of the James/Grace success? It's simple: over many years and many books, James has refined his storytelling skills to the nth degree and has the full measure of the classic police procedural narrative. In the new book, Brighton's Metropole Hotel is the scene of an unpleasant incident: a woman is savagely raped when she enters a room. Some days later, another woman is similarly assaulted -- both have their shoes stolen by the offender. Assigned to the case, Detective Superintendent Grace becomes aware that these two incidents have disturbing echoes of a sequence of crimes that shook Brighton in 1997. The rapist (who had been described as ‘Shoe Man’) claimed five victims, the last of which he had murdered before disappearing. Grace is faced with two unpleasant possibilities; that the original Shoe Man who cheated justice 10 years ago has returned to wreak havoc again, or -- equally disturbingly -- there is a copycat at work.

The growing army of admirers for James’ Grace books will be well aware of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the detective’s wife, Sandy -- a disappearance that James has allowed to remain enigmatic. The narrative of Dead Like You plays on that intriguing plot strand, as Grace is obliged to travel back mentally to a time when he was happily married in order to discover how he can defeat a monster in the present. This is one of Peter James’s longest books, weighing in at nearly 600 pages, but aficionados will find that it is not a page too long. --Barry Forshaw

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