“They say that the devil is in the details and on this evidence Peter James could be Beelzebub himself.”

Carly Chase is still traumatised 10 days after being involved in a fatal car crash. The victim of the crash is a teenager studying at Brighton University. Then she hears news which turns her world upside down.

The drivers of the other two cars also involved in the accident have been tortured to death and Detective Superintendant Roy Grace has to break the bad news to her that he fears she may be next.

I first heard about the idea for this book back in July last year when I interviewed Peter James at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and right from the start I could see it was a great plot idea. However little did I realise how good it could be in James’ hands. The way that the story unfolds and grips you really is quite unique. From the start the reader knows the victim, there is little detection to be done as you are told in the narrative who the killer is and why they are killing.

This book shouldn’t work, yet it works better than most because of Peter James’ attention to detail. The outlining of police & other emergency services procedures, the thoughts and fears of the main characters, the mundane – almost unnoticed – oddities of everyday life are all described in such a way as to draw the reader into the story alongside the characters.

They say that the devil is in the details and on this evidence Peter James could be Beelzebub himself.

Roy Grace is one of my favourite fictional coppers as his sense of duty; his outrage at events and his unswerving determination to bring killers to justice is simply a joy to behold. However, his personal life with his bride to be, Cleo, always plays a part as does his missing first wife Sandy. It is these traits which make him such good company for the reader and he is surrounded as always with his preferred team. On the opposite side of the divide is Carly Chase who feels guilt at her involvement with the accidental death, the bereaved Mafiosa parents Lou & Fernanda Revere with their quest for revenge and Tooth, the killer for hire. I have met many serial killers throughout my years of reading, yet few can come close to Tooth as he exudes evil, cares about nothing except his associate and has the most fantastically twisted birthday ritual I have ever encountered. He is without doubt, a marvellous creation.

The plot is put together with incredible intelligence and while there are not too many surprises as there is no unmasking of the killer etc, the unwary will still get blindsided. The prose is as tight as you would expect from any author of such experience and pedigree. Whether describing events, setting moods or imparting information between characters there is never a moment when I felt I couldn’t see or hear what the author wanted me to. A remarkable skill in itself!

How would I describe this book to friends? A brutal, unflinching, police procedural written by a master penman. I found that while I was reading Dead Man’s Grip I was still reading as much as I ever do yet I was not racing through the pages. Instead I found myself savouring the experience and enjoying each little delight. In the same way you would not slug malt whisky or shovel beluga caviar down your throat, you do not race through a Roy Grace novel.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: *****