Title: Dead Like You
Author: Peter James
Page Count/Review Word Count: 648
I’ve been getting really into Peter James of late, partly because his books are so good and partly because he seems so approachable on social media. He’s a best seller with a proven reputation and a busy schedule, so it’s nice to see that he takes time to speak to his fans.
In this book, Roy Grace investigates a bizarre sex crime which reminds him of a similar case – the Shoe Man – from back in 1997. The narrative jumps between the past and the present, but it’s not confusing and it works well, becoming a vital part of the story as a whole. It’s hard for authors to pull that off, but James does it well here.
He also does a cracking job of showing how the antagonist’s mind works, and while he’s shrouded in mystery throughout, you still get a sense of why he is how he is, and why he does what he does. And he stands out in my head as one of the best bad guys that Roy Grace and his team have had to deal with. There’s a real sense of menace that pervades throughout the book, and it helps to draw you in and absorb you.
And, despite the number of pages in the book, it’s not too difficult to read and you’ll feel like you’re speeding your way through. It also helps that the past and the present are both sectioned off in the layout, which means that you quite often whizz through a couple of pages because there’s nothing much printed on them.
You also have to take your hat off to James for the level of research that he puts in, and I was impressed that he used the bad guy’s shoe fixation for literary effect by describing the different fancy footwear that each of the female characters was wearing. It needed that level of detail, and James managed to do it in such a way that it added to the overall sinister vibe of the story in the first place.
And one of the good things about Peter James’ work is that you don’t necessarily need to read it in chronological order. You can dip in and out to suit you, which means you can do what I did and slowly build up an entire collection of the Roy Grace novels from charity shops alone. That also means that you can start with whichever book you want, and I’d say that of all of the books I’ve read so far, this one is probably the best for an overall introduction into Grace’s murky Brighton underworld, as well as his characters, their flaws and their aspirations.
Of course, with any book like this, you may want to watch out if you’re a more sensitive sort, or if you usually avoid things with trigger warnings. For me, I thought it worked, but some of the depictions could well be too graphic for some people. But then, if you’re already a fan of crime novels then you probably know what to expect. James isn’t particularly innovative – he’s just solid, and consistent. That’s what he’s good at, and that’s why I like to read him. You’ll never get a bad book.
But overall, I thought this book was fantastic, and one of my favourite crime novels in general – and not just out of James’ back catalogue. Roy Grace is in fine form, as always, and even the supporting characters are not only realistic and believable but also three-dimensional. They’re not just there to move the narrative along – they have storylines of their own, and it’s always interesting to see what they’re getting up to. Unpleasant for them, perhaps, but good for keeping the reader entertained from start to finish. So read it!