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Not Dead Yet: Fresh Fiction

By Audrey Lawrence

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It is 8 a.m. on a warm and sunny Saturday morning in June. No weekend off for him and only scant clues on their latest case, a murder victim. Despite being in his office at headquarters, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a 21 year veteran with the Sussex police, still ponders the horror and the kind of mutilation done to the man whose headless, armless and legless torso was uncovered the day before from the chicken shed at Stonery Farm in Berwick, East Sussex. Who is the victim? His team has only the barest of clues. Will they ever be able to name him and find his murderer?

Thinking this would be a good chance to further develop a promising officer now suffering from a painful split with his wife and to give Grace some support while he wraps up a previous case, Grace announces the appointment of DS Glenn Branson as Acting Detective Inspector and his deputy SIO for investigating this murder, now known as Operation Icon, at their first police team briefing.

On his way to a key meeting with the Chief Constable, Grace receives a call from Spinella, the Chief Crime Reporter of the Brighton newspaper, The Argus. Grace is shocked to hear that the newspaperman has already sniffed out the latest developments going on with the police. Grace now wonders if there is a mole in within the Sussex Police or, heaven forbid, on his own team. How is he going to be able to get that figured out on top of everything else?

Relief, however, is not in the cards. In fact, the Chief Constable has a new assignment for him. The world famous American singer turned actress, the beautiful Gaia Lafayette, is coming with her entourage to Brighton for the filming of a mega budget movie that is sure to be a hit greater than “The King’s Speech”. This will be fantastic for tourism and the world will be watching. Not only have the Sussex police have been charged with making sure that Gaia will be safe, but the full weight of that responsibility now fully falls on Detective Superintendent Grace’s shoulders. A huge responsibility, especially now they know a killer is out to get her as well as the usual fans and stalkers – although it is a job not without some perks. But, with the recent budget cuts to policing, can Grace really pull it off?

Right from his first sentence, best-selling and internationally well-known crime writer Peter James instantly and powerfully places you straight in the midst of a murder’s obsession in Bel Air, California. From there, James adeptly develops both the suspense and storyline by shifting us across the Atlantic to the quiet of an early morning country farm in England. How can the two possibly be linked?

NOT DEAD YET is the eighth book in Peter James’ terrific crime series featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Skillfully written in a deceptively simple, yet realistic style, NOT DEAD YET is remarkably readable as a stand-alone police procedural novel while fans already familiar with James’ books are sure to find this one a very captivating read, especially as James further develops some of the back stories from previous books. James is very talented at making his work easy to visualize and follow by using short chapters to shift from scene to scene. He also provides very fascinating insights into the standard police procedures that takes their few facts, links them into databases and other sources to eke out the small clues to guide them as they search for the murderer.

I find Roy Grace to be a very interesting protagonist. He is very human in emotional response, yet professional on the job (and often stifling a laugh to keep things so). On the home front, he is ready to fully develop his love for the mother of his unborn child as they await clearance for their marriage. Grace’s previous wife had disappeared without a trace ten years previous and had not been found, despite all his efforts to trace her. James is also very skilled at realistically developing his secondary characters, both from the dialogue and descriptions of attire, so they are not simply two-dimensional good or bad characters, but each has their own complexities and tribulations.

NOT DEAD YET is a very suspenseful and intriguing roller coaster ride that leaves you quickly turning the pages right to the dramatic conclusion to find out the meaning of the title. This is definitely a mystery that will be very hard to put down once you start reading! A definite treat to enjoy and don’t forget to check out the rest of the series!