Not Dead Yet – Peter James (2012) – A Murder They Wrote Review



This 8th instalment of the Roy Grace series pushes Peter James upwards in my list of most read authors, now sitting at number 8 just below Patrick Gale. Its predecessor “Dead Man’s Grip” became my first James five star recommendation earlier this year. I felt that it was a classic crime novel which had everything I would look for in a police procedural. This is not as good.

I used to live in Brighton and part of my attachment to this series is to do with its location and very strong grounding in reality. Although here the locations are present James seems to have ramped up the plot to a heightened level which at times hovers too close to the preposterous. Central to this is a type of character I’ve come across before and I’m yet to like. This character, here called Gaia, is a Madonna/Lady GaGa hybrid of the huge international celebrity. She was present, along similar lines in Zadie Smith’s “Swing Time” (2016) where she was called Aimee and was the weak spot in an otherwise impressive work and, here, despite me thinking there’s value in exploring the notion and trappings of celebrity, Gaia also does not ring true in this context.

With a stalker on her trail she returns to her Brighton birthplace to take up a film role as mistress to George IV using the Royal Pavilion as a location. Others are interested in her return closer to home. Meanwhile, a torso is discovered on a chicken farm and Roy Grace inches further towards fatherhood. There’s also significant development in two ongoing plot lines; Grace’s missing wife Sandy and the leaking of sensitive information to the press.

Although Gaia’s presence can make the plot feel far-fetched the groundwork is set so well in this series that it doesn’t really matter. James continues his blurring of fact and fiction with the film co-stars Hugh Bonneville and Joseph Fiennes written in. He also uses the real names and professions of many of those law-enforcers who contribute to his research.

The whole thing is more larger than life than usual but the rooted ongoing characters and their lives feels important and once again this really drew me back in. That is why I think it is so important to read this series in order. It does crank up to a climax which affected me more because James has made me care for the characters. If I had just picked this off the shelf without reading any of the series before I might have thought it just a bit silly. Pace is good and it reads well and all in all, despite my reservations, this is a solid instalment to a great crime series which just falls short of being considered amongst its best.


Not Dead Yet was published in 2012 by Macmillan.

3 thoughts on “Not Dead Yet – Peter James (2012) – A Murder They Wrote Review

  1. Kay Carter

    This was the first one that I read. I didn’t really cotton on to Roy Grace and I didn’t care about his lost wife or the impending birth of his child.
    I finished It, I enjoyed reading about Brighton, even though I don’t know it very well, except the lanes and shops.
    I liked the description of the Royal pavilion. I admit to being bored by it at times and thought he had lost the plot at other times.
    The next book I read had a scene that left me feeling claustrophobic when they buried a casket containing a live body. I couldn’t finish that one. I have a couple more in my ‘to be read’ pile and when I get to them I will read them.
    Loved the review.x


  2. I rermember you saying that you read one which featured the Royal Pavilion and that you didn’t really go for it. When I was reading this I realised that it must have been this one. I think it was that which drew my comments about this not really working as a stand-alone and is better read in sequence. I’m still not convinced that my four star rating was not overly generous I think I like the way it fits in with the others in the series more than the book itself! I’m still standing by its predecessor “Dead Man’s Grip” which I thought was very good indeed.


  3. Kay Carter

    I will read the others, and I will get back to you. Not sure if I can get past the buried body without hyperventilating, but I’ll give it another go.
    I do agree with you about reading in sequence. When I found the Alex Cross series by James Patterson, there were five books before the one I was reading: as stand alones they just don’t work unless you know the characters, which is probably why I didn’t care for or about Roy Grace.

    Liked by 1 person

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