Peter James has quietly become one of the world’s best-selling crime writers. This is largely thanks to his consistently absorbing mysteries starring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who investigates crimes in and around Brighton, on England’s south coast. The bucolic setting makes for plentiful ironies, much as it did when Graham Greene set Brighton Rock (1938) in the holiday resort.
Need You Dead picks up where James’ previous novel, Love You Dead (2016), left off. The suicide of Grace’s troubled first wife, Sandy, has a sting in its tale: Grace’s 10-year-old son, Bruno, living in Germany. Something of Grace’s unhappy romantic past informs the main plot of his 13th investigation. As he heads to Germany, he helps, in absentia, his talented understudy, Guy Batchelor, solve a murder case. A local hairdresser named Lorna Belling is found dead. The list of suspects is almost as large as the population of Brighton. Is it her husband, Corin, whom Lorna recently reported to the police for domestic abuse? Is it her lover, another man with violent tendencies? How about the splendidly named Seymour Darling (a pun surely), who discovered her infidelity?
The twists keep coming until the satisfying conclusion. James is a modern master.