Title: You Are Dead
Author: Peter James
Page Count/Review Word Count: 520
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably already noticed that I’ve been getting heavily into Peter James of late. Interestingly enough, I didn’t actually start with one of his crime novels – I started with The House On Cold Hill, an excerpt of which is included at the end of this novel to give potential readers a chance to preview it before buying it. Which you should do, of course – it’s a good book, just like all of James’ releases.
This book, though, is one of his Roy Grace detective novels, and it follows the story of the first serial killer to operate in Brighton in several decades. Grace and his team must track down the killer before he strikes again, but with no real leads and a huge pool of suspects – plus a number of known kidnap victims who may or may not still be alive – it’s one hell of a challenge for the Sussex police force. And then there’s the simultaneous story line about Grace’s missing ex-wife, Sandy, who may or may not have turned up alive (just!) in a hospital in Germany.
To some extent, you know exactly what you’re getting when you pick up a Peter James book; like Stephen King, he’s one of the rare breed of writers that maintains a constant high standard throughout everything he works on. This book isn’t my favourite of the Roy Grace books, but it is one of the better ones, mainly because the serial killer gives him a new angle to work with. The media gets involved, there’s widespread panic on the streets, and the killer is even given his own nickname – the Brighton Brander, because each of his victims is found with a brand on their body. A brand that says: U R Dead.
That brings me on to one of the few negative aspects that I picked up on – the significance of the brand was never really explained, and that was one of the main things that I was hoping to have resolved by the end of the book. I think more could have been done with that, but then James left it reasonably open ended so it’s entirely possible that this will be referred to again in a future release. I also found that certain elements of this were spoiled by the fact that I read the series out of order – it can be done, and it won’t hamper your overall enjoyment, but while each book in the series is a standalone, there’s also the recurring story line of Grace’s personal life, as well as the lives of his colleagues.
Overall, though, I have a lot of time for You Are Dead. The tension – and the evil – is palpable, and James’ characters are at their best here. I even found myself feeling sorry for DS Norman Potting, which I didn’t think was actually possible. But ultimately, it was the victims that I found to be relatable, which added to the story.