My second Peter James novel I’ve read this year is a much slighter affair than “Dead Man’s Grip” which will be in contention for my Book of The Year this year. “The Perfect Murder” takes my tally of James’ novels to eight which eases him into the anchor position of my Top 10 most read authors alongside Martina Cole and John Steinbeck. This was because I selected “A Quick Read Novel” from the Sandown Library Russian Roulette Reading Challenge. This was published for World Book Day in 2010 and can be polished off quite easily in an hour. The whole Quick Reads enterprise is to tempt people back into reading primarily but it can also provide a cheap, easy read for fans of the author. Last year I read Minette Walters’ “Chickenfeed” from the same series. You are not going to get the very best work from an author but hopefully a sampler of what they do in order to tempt you into finding out more.
“The Perfect Murder” is a stand-alone novel set like James’ Roy Grace series in Brighton, although on this occasion it could have been set anywhere. Victor and Joan Smiley, a rather elderly-seeming pair of forty-somethings are so stuck in the rut of their marriage that the only way out seems to be murder and both are planning to bump the other one off.
Characterisation is broadly drawn yet effective and there are twists to the tale, some of which I didn’t see coming, some I did. There is a danger when writing these Quick Reads to order that the more limited vocabulary and length these demand can mean that the actual defining style of the author does not come through. I think this is, to an extent, a valid point in both the James and Walters novellas I’ve read but the Brighton location and very Peter James front cover goes some way to rectifying this.
I know that Peter James has produced at least one collection of short stories and here he displays that he has the knack of conveying a sinister involving tale in a succinct fashion.
The Perfect Murder was published by Pan Books in 2010.