Ali Karim is assistant editor at SHOTS and writes/reviews for The Rap Sheet, January Magazine, Deadly Pleasures, Crimespree and Mystery Readers International
In what is Peter James’ 8th Detective Roy Grace police procedural, one would perhaps feel that treading this well-worn path into Brighton’s dark heart would be somewhat stale, though I have to report that the converse is true.
The reasons why are: that the Roy Grace thrillers are becoming a comfort read; observing the very worst excesses of human behavior from the safety of your armchair; coupled with the fact that Not Dead Yet’s plot contains elements torn from James’ former life as a film producer, rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood types that form the centre of this novel.
Brighton has become the location for a huge Hollywood blockbuster, featuring the diva Gaia Lafayette [a combination of Madonna and Lady Gaga], now resident in America but who grew up in the more humble origins of Council Estate Brighton. Lafayette’s role is in a historical thriller that should get her an Oscar for her mantle-piece and move her into the world of film. Grace is under pressure from the fifth floor to ensure nothing goes wrong in Brighton while the film crew is in town. This is especially critical when they discover that Lafayette has some obsessive fans, including a stalker. Grace’s attention and that of his partner Branson is caught when a connection to a dead body [torso only] is discovered in a chicken farm. The connection being to Lafayette.
Despite the density of the plot which features James’ trademarked multi-viewpoints, reptilian like plotline that snakes toward an unseen climax – it reads remarkably fast due to close to 150 ‘clipped’ chapters, many very terse, but all leading to a scary finale in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion.
It maybe no coincidence that Not Dead Yet has a film backdrop as the Roy Grace novels are now inching themselves toward that direction themselves, and considering James’ experience in the film world, they will do doubt match the success they bring to their readers around the world. Though James’ relationship with Brighton’s tourist board must be as fraught as his plots because despite their humour and tradecraft, they are indeed dark excursions for the reader, portraying the dark under-belly of the seaside town in a troublesome light.