Title: Dead Man’s Footsteps
Author: Peter James
Page Count/Review Word Count: 582
At first, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to get into this. After all, I’d just finished reading another lengthy crime novel, and while I am a pretty big fan of Peter James’ writing, I wasn’t as immediately sold on the concept here as I was with some of James’ other Roy Grace books.
It turns out that I shouldn’t have worried. It’s true that the story line got a little confusing from time to time, especially because it jumped backwards and forwards in time and focused on a number of different characters who, to start with at least, didn’t seem to have anything to connect them. But as the book rolled along towards its conclusion, it all worked itself out with the sort of mind-blowing simplicity that can only come from careful planning.
And speaking of planning, I was impressed, as always, with the level of research that James must have carried out before he started work on the book. If you’re ever in doubt, you can just read his acknowledgements, but suffice to say that a huge amount of time must have been spent just looking into the way that different police forces operate, including the processes for extradition and co-operation between Australia, the UK and the United States.
A big part of this story is based around the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and while I think that’s been overdone in modern literature, I also thought that James handled it well. His depiction of that fateful day was evocative and brought the reader’s senses to life, and it enabled one of the major plot devices to happen in the first place. Not only that, but it all made sense, particularly when it came to how each of the characters responded to it.
There was also a lot of in-depth knowledge about stamps, which were used in lieu of money by several of the characters to make it possible for them to either legitimise crooked money or to carry large sums of it around without authorities wondering why they were travelling with suitcases full of cash.
As for the story line itself, it follows an investigation into a cold case in which the skeletal remains of a woman are discovered in a storm drain in Brighton. At first, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is worried that it could be the body of his estranged ex-wife, Sandy. She’s been missing for a long time, and a new colleague of his starts to actively investigate the possibility that Grace killed her and buried her in his front garden. But Grace has more pressing demands on his time.
Grace himself is one of the more exciting protagonists to be created in recent years, and while I’ve been reading the books out of order – and so I haven’t been able to actively watch his character as it develops – it is interesting to see different sides of him. Here, he’s forced to play the hero, as he has done before – by the end of the book, he’s (reluctantly) written his car off and received hospital treatment. But he’s also solved the crime, although there’s a little bit of wiggle room and a big twist at the end.
Overall, it’s hard to find fault with Dead Man’s Footsteps, and while it’s not quite perfect, there’s a lot to be said for it.