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Dead Man’s Grip: Auntie M Writes

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Peter James two latest Roy Grace novels reveal why Lee Child calls him “…one of the best in the world.” James has produced numerous films (The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes) and his novels have a cinematic appeal, visual and complex. Indeed, three of the novels have been filmed and the books have sold over five million copies and been translated into thirty-three languages, a track record any author would envy.

James blames being burgled for the realistic bent he brings to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his Brighton team. A detective James met at the time offered to help him with his series research, and later became the model for Grace. James says becoming friendly with the policeman and his cohorts led him to see that they live in an inclusive world of their own compatriots, looking differently at their surroundings from the average citizen: they have a healthy dose of suspicion most of us lack. James credits another detective friend who reads and comments on his novels-in-progress for being an invaluable resource. Auntie M agrees: her own Cumbrian source for The Green Remains (due out early in 2012) helps with details of everything, from the colors of the lights on top of Lake District panda cars, to the distance to the police station from the major crime scene.

Dead Like You opens in Brighton at the Metropole Hotel on New Year’s Eve. A woman is brutally raped; a week later, a second woman is attacked. Both victims have their shoes taken by the offender.

The cases jog Grace’s memory back to a series of remarkably similar crimes which remain unsolved from 1997. Are these crimes the work of a copycat perpetrator, or has the “Shoe Man” resurfaced?

By shifting between the past and present, James presents us with the fullest picture yet of Grace’s personal life, taking readers into the time before his beloved wife went missing and changed his world irrevocably. He also offers a fascinating story of sexual obsession. As the crimes mount, Grace’s team race to save the latest victim.

The novel is inventive and engrossing, blending aspects of the police procedural with the psychological suspense that has become the hallmark of James’ novels, which Jeffery Deavers say echo ” …the heart and voices of such authors as P. D. James and Ian Rankin at their best.”

James’ newest addition to the series will be on sale here at the end of November. Auntie M scored an Advance Readers’ Edition of Dead Man’s Grip and feels this is the strongest entry yet in the Roy Grace series. This one sizzles off the page, building from chapter to chapter, as the action ranges through several countries and surges with emotional charges on several levels.

The action starts in a seemingly innocuous way, with widow Carly Chase hurrying to the office after dropping her son at school. A terrible motor vehicle accident occurs, with the resultant death of a Brighton University student. Too much wine the evening before is still in Carly’s system, but when she’s eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in the accident, she has no idea that the repercussions will extend far beyond the loss of her driving license.

When Grace’s Sussex team become involved, it becomes clear that the dead student had connections to organized crime in America, and several scenes are set in New York on Long Island’s tony Hamptons. Since this is Auntie M’s homeground, she was particularly keen to read these bits, but the routes used to get there from Manhattan are correct and descriptions of the area hold up well.

Then revenge killings of the others involved in the accident begin, accompanied by some of the most horrific torture imaginable. It becomes obvious to Grace that Carly is next on the killer’s list.

Besides James’ terrific plotting, this novel is notable for two other aspects. The first is the hit man involved, and here Grace does a sensational job of getting inside the mind of the kind of freakish sociopath who would be able to carry out these detailed killings. This may be one of the most evil characters to come out of James’ imagination yet.

The second is the weaving in of Grace’s personal life, which takes an surprising and unforeseen turn. Readers of the series will be chomping at the bit for the next book to see how this newest twist plays out. Don’t miss this latest entry from Peter James for a satisfying read and a wild ride.