Obsession coupled with revenge – there is no finer mix for a best-selling crime novel.
The eighth in the Roy Grace series, Peter James’ Not Dead Yet deals with the obsession of fans – specifically those of pop icons who also try their hand at movies – with James’ creation of Gaia Lafayette being not too far removed from Madonna or Lady GaGa. Lafayette is surrounded by those who will do anything to be close to her and will buy everything and anything that she has been involved in or worn on stage.
Set in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Grace’s patch, and centred around the Pavilion, Gaia has travelled across the Atlantic to make her screen debut in a period film about King George IV and Maria Fitzherbert. But events back at Gaia’s US home in Bel Air become cause for concern when one of her assistants is killed – thought to have been a victim of mistaken identity – and Grace is tasked with ensuring her safety on set and during her stay in Brighton for fear that the would-be assassin has travelled across the pond with her. As ever, a policeman’s lot doesn’t have just the one case to handle, and he is kept occupied with the discovery of a headless and limbless torso on a local chicken farm. The book is full of obsessive characters, with an American, Drayton Wheeler, who seems dead set on making Gaia’s life a misery, and Anna Galicia who has created a virtual shrine to her idol and is convinced that Gaia makes secret signs only for her during performances and interviews.
With so much packed into an incredibly gripping tale it’s a masterful juggling act both for the author and for his central character. As well as all of his police-work duties, there is the other small but rapidly growing issue of his partner Cleo’s pregnancy and the fact that somebody seems out to scare her by carving threatening messages into the paintwork of her car. James fans will of course still be hunting clues for what has happened to Sandy, Grace’s wife who disappeared nearly ten years ago, but new readers who jump in with this book will not be lost in doing so and there is a great twist in that main series story arc that gives readers a few shocks. With the stalking tale and other very much of-the-moment plot devices – including phone-hacking – Peter James has managed once again to keep his latest book fresh and bang up-to-date in its themes and style.