I’m up to Book Seven of what has become my favourite crime series. Peter James’ novels featuring DS Roy Grace have appeared on my end of year Top 10 lists on three occasions and up to this point I would have struggled to say whether the chilling debut “Dead Simple”(2005) or novel number five “Dead Tomorrow”(2009) with its organ trafficking theme was the strongest but I think here the standard has just upped a notch and in “Dead Man’s Grip” we have a classic crime novel.
A couple of the earlier novels I felt had slight issues with pace but the three since “Dead Man’s Footsteps” (2008) have put this right and there are certainly no issues on this score here. The book hits the floor running and is gripping throughout.
It has been about 18 months since my last James novel but his characters are so well established by this stage in the series that I don’t need much in the way of memory jogging to recall who is who. I would urge newbies to read them in order, especially as there is an ongoing subplot regarding Grace’s missing wife, Sandy, which James keeps lightly simmering on the back burner here. I don’t think I would have got as much from this novel if I had read it out of sequence.
Roy Grace is here an expectant father but has only a small amount of time to fret over pregnancy complications before another set of Brighton-based crimes take over. They all stem from a tensely written road traffic accident which leads to involvement of a New York Mafia family.
Sometimes it is a set piece which sticks in the mind in James’ novels and I have felt that the book has been built around this. That’s not exactly a criticism as many crime novelists choose to do this but this instalment is so full of memorable pieces, to the extent that I wondered if it could be built to a gripping climax, but we are certainly not deprived of that here.
This really does have everything I look for in a police procedural crime novel. The research seems first-class. In his acknowledgements it seems as if James has used every member of the Sussex Police Force for help and advice. (He has also used a few real names and job titles throughout the novel). If there is a better British crime writer out there at the moment I haven’t found them (yet!). And I still have got 6 books to got to catch up on this series. The 14th “Dead If You Don’t” is due out in hardback in May 2018.
Dead Man’s Grip was published by Macmillan in 2011