“Whilst readers may be absorbed in Peter James’ meticulously-researched crime novels, they cannot fail to recognise that the investigational ability of UK forces of law and order is increasingly undermined by an overarching priority . . . . BUDGET!”
Dick Smith has just finished reading “Need You Dead”, the latest top-seller from crime novelist and ABI patron, Peter James. “There’s a good chance I’ll meet him at our AGM in Brighton,” said Dick, “so I felt I needed to be up-to-speed with his books; not least with the highly popular ‘Roy Grace’ series.
Dick is the law enforcement liaison officer with ABI, and spent most of his police career as a detective before going into the world of professional investigation; concentrating almost exclusively on commercial fraud.
“I have read some of Peter James’ espionage books in the past,” he continued, “and found them gripping stuff, but had somehow by-passed this best-selling Sussex cop series. It was time to put that right.
“Reading the 13 books in the Grace series in as many weeks, but which Peter James has written over the past 13 years, it’s fascinating how the author has managed to keep the contextual content contemporaneous. I’ve read crime and espionage fiction since childhood and know that both Conan-Doyle with Holmes, and le Carré with Smiley, encountered complications in keeping their long-running central characters from aging. With Roy Grace, James does so masterfully. Despite each being very much up-to-the-minute in terms of the backdrop, one book naturally follows freshly on from the previous and thirteen years has been effectively and craftily compacted into roughly two . . . without losing any credibility.
“James regularly conjures up grisly and realistic images and situations, but it’s his penetration of police inner-workings, undoubtedly through extraordinarily detailed research into procedures, which ultimately paints a more disturbing picture. Had I read these books as each was written . . . . that is, over the past thirteen years . . . . the systematic reduction in resources available to the police, (through the eyes of Detective Superintendent Grace), may have been less noticeable. But ploughing through in rapid succession, the reality and results of Government asset-stripping during this period is stark. Police attitudes are also accurately replicated, as James writes, ‘in this modern age of accountability in the police force, where you walked constantly on eggshells, it seemed at times, sadly, that covering your back had become almost more important than solving the crime.’
“Maintaining regular contact with the real police in a number of force areas on an almost weekly basis, I hear exactly the same grievances. All complain they no longer have the means to do the job. Having said that, I occasionally and despondently encounter ‘lack of resources’ as an excuse for the actual loss of will and/or skill. For sure, investigation of fraud these days is now beyond the wit of the police in general; hence it is currently and understandably the most prolific crime in the UK.
“The truth of the matter is that the Home Office has achieved what it blatantly set out to do. The methodical demoralising of a bureaucratically-hamstrung police by the regular and politically-motivated planting of stories in the media has ‘rubbished’ the forces of law and order in the minds of the public with the almost undisguised intention of making the financial and reputational attacks on them more acceptable. The politicians now have a police force at their beck and call, demanding they lurch from one political priority to the next; inextricably reliant on the current flavour of puritanism demanded by the media. It is a situation which would have been totally unpalatable merely twenty years ago.
“So where do we go from here? Forever the optimist, I hope that out there amongst those ever-diminishing police numbers there continues to be the occasional Roy Grace . . . . who joined ‘The Job’ to do the job! “I’m very much looking forward to our AGM at the Grand Hotel,” said Dick but, with a wry smile, he concluded, “Considering the Brighton murder-count faced by Det Supt Grace, I’ll probably be avoiding that midnight stroll along the sea-front!”