The publication of a new Peter James novel is an event. I came to James via his series featuring British Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a stalwart law enforcement officer who has experienced more than his share of professional and personal difficulties but has continually managed to rise above the fray when required. The latest book in the canon finds Grace confronted with one of the smartest adversaries of his career, even as he approaches a personal milestone.
WANT YOU DEAD centers on an attractive young woman named Red Cameron and a superficially dashing gent, Bryce Laurent. The two met through an online dating agency and hit it off rather well at first, but Bryce, to understate things, became abusive and controlling. Worse, Red discovered all too soon that Bryce had lied about his background, his job and even his name. Red broke off the relationship but had to utilize police protection to do so. Bryce, though, is not to be dissuaded. He is of the mind that if he cannot have the desirable Red, then no one can, including the nice physician she has recently started to seriously date. Bryce gets him out of the way and then begins a crusade to harass Red. Unbeknownst to Red, Bryce has invaded every nook and cranny of her existence, with the intent of destroying everything that is dear to her before he ends her life as well.
Red cannot believe what is happening, and at first doesn’t even associate Bryce with the misfortune that has befallen her. After all, she has a protective order against him. That should resolve everything, shouldn’t it? The primary problem is that Bryce, for all of his evil inclinations, is incredibly clever in his approach. The misfortune that afflicts Red seems to be random at first: a death here, destruction there, and all of it is apparently unrelated. The causative factor, though, is Bryce. One of the total joys of reading WANT YOU DEAD is discerning the manner in which Grace and his team methodically piece together the evidence, following and then disregarding the occasional red herring that Bryce lays in their path, until they ultimately realize that he is their proper target.
That, however, creates a new problem: How do they find him? Bryce is living off the grid, assuming multiple identities, walking invisibly among them, and choosing not to manifest himself to anyone — including Red — until it is far too late for anyone to stop him. Meanwhile, Grace prepares for his wedding to Cleo, his longtime fiancee, unaware that two individuals watch separately from the shadow, determined to irrevocably ruin the special day.
The climax of WANT YOU DEAD will leave you breathless and surprised. Not everyone who was present at the commencement of the book makes it to story’s end. There is also a resolution of sorts to a couple of plot threads that Peter James has tantalizingly left dangling over the course of the series. Of course, that resolution creates new possibilities and raises new questions, including… But that would be telling. You’ll need to read this one and its successor (which hopefully will be published next year). I strongly recommend that you do, so you can enjoy one of the best police procedural series that is currently being published.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 21, 2014