Detective Superintendent Roy Grace returns in Not Dead Yet with marriage on his mind- he’s about to become a father as well. Of course, distractions get in the way of domestic bliss in the shape of transatlantic rock stars, murder cases, court appearances, budget cuts and police rugby matches. Born-in-Bristol rockstar Gaia is returning to shoot a Hollywood period drama at the Bristol Pavilion- after escaping an attempt on her life in Los Angeles. The police on both sides of the Atlantic are on high alert, especially after a dismembered body is found on a chicken farm and identified as an obsessive Gaia fan. The plot thickens; there’s a disgruntled screenwriter trying to harm the film shoot and Dt Superintendent Grace’s long-lost wife makes an appearance after nearly 10 years.
If you’re a James fan, you’ll enjoy this one. The gruesome crime scenes are peppered with the usual one-liners (none of the thoughtful philosophy of a Ruth Rendall or an Ian Rankin novel here) and James has nailed the police procedural down to the last detail. Plus his detectives are BlackBerry-friendly, web-enabled, and generally seem like they are actual clued-in modern citizens: something fellow American crime novelist Patricia Cornwell could take a tip from.
The plot seems a bit simplistic- no doubt rockstars and Hollywood productions collect crazed fanatics faster than a Baba Ramdev rally, but James could have stepped a bit further out of the box on this one. But there’s more to Not Dead Yet than meets the eye. Here’s the back story: it’s inspired by a real-life person, an obsessive, delusional Peter James fan who has a shrine to him in her home, and sent him a 10,000-word email after being slighted at a signing. No word yet on what this lady thinks of Not Dead Yet but possibly James is not easing up on his personal security arrangements just yet.
Someone else unlikely to have this book on his bedside table is author Martin Amis. Speaking to UK’s The Telegraph, James described an awkward meeting between the two when Amis snubbed James at an awards ceremony. Peter James vented on Twitter, a bet with Ian Rankin followed on whether James could work in Martin Amis into his next book and voila! Amis Smallbone is born, a has-been crime lord who’s humiliated at almost every appearance he makes in the book.
So read between the lines of Not Dead Yet and you’ll find more layers than you expect. Who knows, you might be James’ next obsessed fan.