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by Peter James
Macmillan, May 2005
400 pages
ISBN: 1405051639

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Peter James's DEAD SIMPLE is a book to store up for a weekend when you won't be disturbed -- but you might want to read it with the lights on!

It's a page-turner in the best sense of the word where you'll find yourself turning the pages at the same speed as the mouse's legs rotate in the Tom and Jerry cartoon. And ostensibly it's a police procedural featuring a faintly flawed hero who isn't a super-cop. But there's a heavy dash of suspense and just a soupcon of supernatural to help the mix along.

Sussex Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is seen as a competent copper, but one who's been overtaken by those with more political nous. His wife disappeared some years ago, but it's not an angle that dominates the book. And we're not over-burdened with angst about his lovelife, although there is a rather entertaining running gag about a cop-hating vegan who desperately wants a shag! Grace does, though, have a rather touching faith in calling in mediums to help solve crimes which makes him the butt of the usual station jokes.

DEAD SIMPLE is a tricky book to review without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that Michael Harrison's stag night isn't one you'd want to be part of. A prank goes wrong, leaving Michael missing and four of his friends dead. With three days to go to the wedding, Grace has to work out just what went on that night so he can track down the groom.

Grace and his sergeant Glenn Branson prove to be the steadying influences amidst a raft of fairly unlikeable yuppies. The more they dig, the more dodgy secrets they find buried behind the respectable facades of posh Brighton flats and businesses.

James's scriptwriting background is obvious in what's a well-crafted and structured book. There was one moment (sorry to be vague, but there's a real spoiler risk with this book) when I thought he was going to teeter over into the One Damn Thing On Top Of Another school of writing. But the fast-moving plot whisks the reader past this danger spot.

If you're a sceptic, as I am, when it comes to woo-woo and crime fiction, you'll be glad to hear that James just about gets away with it! And one particular loose end suggests that there may be more books starring Roy Grace. If there are, it certainly won't be any hardship to read them if DEAD SIMPLE is anything to go by.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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