I enjoyed the first in Peter James’s series starring troubled Brighton cop Roy Grace, and LOOKING GOOD DEAD is a sharp and punchy sequel.

Grace is a Detective Superintendent in his home city and on the whole reckons he’s doing a worthwhile job. But he has personal issues — the disappearance of his wife Sandy nine years ago has never been solved, and he spends his time hanging round mediums in the hope of finding out what happened to her.

I don’t care for woo-woo in crime novels, but James just about gets away with the angle. There’s an intriguing throwaway comment about how police elsewhere will call in a medium more than you’d think, along with a character I hope James will revisit — a cop-turned-medium who seems to know a bit too much about what’s going on in Grace’s life.

In LOOKING GOOD DEAD Grace has a love interest and starts to wonder how he can move his life along again. But you can guarantee, without giving anything away, that it won’t be plain sailing and will leave enough loops open for the next in the series.

But work’s not exactly a bundle of laughs either. Grace made a mess of a previous case and now has scary ACC Alison Vosper on his back. She’s threatening to get him transferred, and is bringing in a smug rival to ‘help’ him out.

The premise of the book is good and rather spine-chilling. Businessman Tom Bryce picks up a CD someone has left on the London to Brighton train. When he plays it on his laptop in an effort to find out who it belongs to, he sees a terrifying sight and his computer goes into meltdown. From that moment on, the lives of his family are in danger.

DEAD SIMPLE, the first in the series, was one to read with the lights on, and LOOKING GOOD DEAD has a selection of very creepy villains. And James is particularly strong in those scenes with Tom’s family where it looks like his on the surface perfect life is collapsing around him.

What the book does lack, though, is some meat on the other police bones. Grace has a dedicated team around him, but we don’t find out an awful lot about them — which becomes slightly problematic later on when the pace hots up. The exception is Grace’s friend, the flamboyant Detective Sergeant Glenn Branson, who finds himself turned into a fashion advisor as Grace worries about what to wear on his forthcoming date.

If you like page-turners which are a good distraction from what’s going on outside your window, go for LOOKING GOOD DEAD. I hammered through it in one day and neglected lots of other tasks! James is a cracking good writer who can keep his reader hooked with some very superior story-telling. Roll on the next in the series!