Ten long years in the making, from research, to writing, to editing and finally publishing, Perfect People by Peter James is a book that will entertain, shock and perhaps most of all leave you wondering what if on so many levels. Just how far will parents go to ensure the safety and health of their unborn children? What lengths will they go to secure their future and to what cost? Who will eventually pay for their decisions – the parents or the children themselves? What would you do?

Are we doing the right thing?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last few years I’m sure you would not only have heard of Peter James but no doubt read at least one of his Roy Grace crime thrillers. When I began reviewing books in late 2010 – before I’d come out from beneath the aforementioned rock – within a couple of months I began hearing Peter’s name – along with a well-deserved stellar reputation (Peter’s not mine!) – and everyone in the industry telling me I simply had to read some of his work. Finally, a year down the track I’ve just finished reading my very first Peter James novel, the scientific standalone thriller Perfect People which is published by Macmillan on October 27th in the UK.

One of the dangers of writing a book such as this is getting the balance right. Not only does the author have to make it entertaining to read, believable and not overly complex, he has to remain impartial throughout and not thrust his opinions on the reader, they have to be allowed to make their own decisions. When Peter began researching for this book back at the beginning of the new millennium designer babies were very much a thing of a distant future – not so anymore. I think that’s the most frightening thing about this book, its plausibility. I can say with a high degree of certainty Peter has managed this and so much more – Perfect People is an amazingly taut thriller that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and never lets go and I had to keep reminding myself that although based on scientific fact this was a work of fiction.

The storyline itself is incredibly moreish, I struggled to put the book down if I’m honest for it held my attention from the opening paragraphs – on board the floating medical centre – until its fitting conclusion, a denouement that leaves you with a hint of uncertainty and will inevitably force you to ponder long into the night and well after the book cover is closed for the very last time. One of the great things about this book is its pace. Just when you think James is taking a breather – allowing the reader to relax for a few minutes – he drops another veritable bombshell, twist or event that keeps you reading just a little bit more. I suffered first hand at this while on the cross trainer a couple of nights ago when I suddenly realised I’d been working out and reading for 85 minutes! What more could you ask for from a book – maybe I’d received the “healthy” genome book!

And didn’t Einstein say that if he had known that the consequences of his work would have led to the atom bomb he would have become a watchmaker instead?

Characterisation – another key ingredient to any book – is powerful and well delivered. One of the things that really had me hooked was the relationship between the two key protagonists, namely John and Naomi. Naomi appears unhinged at times – in fact she frightened me on a few occasions! – and I was never sure how she’d react to any given situation. One minute she’d be calm as you like and then at the flick of a switch – or that’s how I saw it – she’d be a borderline psychotic mess! John on the other hand seems a little more relaxed and laid back, a little more pragmatic, however one slip over late night drinks has a profound effect on both their lives later down the track. It all leads to an intoxicating character development and I felt – on numerous occasions – as if I was being pulled along for the ride.

I would at this point comment on a few other key players in the plot but for fears of spoilers will leave this out and maybe address this a few months down the line when people have had chance to read the book.

One of the great strengths of Perfect People is – as I have already alluded to – that it makes you think long and hard. Of all the books I’ve read recently this would make an incredible book club read for it will make you sit up and question your own principles. Faced with the same set of questions what would you choose to do? If money was no object would you want a bouncing baby boy – or girl – sporty, highly intelligent, attractive and successful? The options are limitless but the one question remains – can you afford to mess with nature? One thing is certain for every winner there is a loser.

A brilliantly imaginative and thought provoking thriller, Perfect People is an incredibly engaging scientific thriller that will have you debating long into the night. With numerous twists and turns, well developed characters and a solid plot this is one not to be missed, highly recommended.