In England’s Brighton and Hove, a young woman is abducted from an underground car park and a skeleton is found buried beneath a sidewalk on a beach. Separated by thirty years, the abduction and hidden corpse are linked. A serial killer known as the Brander is abducting beautiful women with long brown hair and branding them with “U R DEAD”.
The recently married Detective Sergeant Roy Grace is struggling with personal problems while trying to locate an ingenious serial killer who is driven by a ravenous revenge that was born during his abusive childhood. The Brander will continue to kill until Grace can stop him.
Peter James’s latest entry in the Roy Grace series, You Are Dead, is his creepiest, goriest, and most bizarre to date. It is a departure from all the others I have read. While reading You Are Dead, I kept thinking of the serial killer Jigsaw in the horrifying theatrical series Saw–a series which helped establish and solidify the horror phrase “torture porn”. The serial killer known as the Brander in You Are Dead keeps his female captives locked up in special devices that prevent them from moving; he brands them with “U R DEAD”.
There are scenes from You Are Dead that I will never be able to erase from my memory. The Brander is an extremely diabolical serial killer. He takes a purported historical event and uses it as the inspiration for torturing those responsible for making his life a living hell when he was a child. In some ways, I feel sorrow for him. Life has been cruel to this man. Now he is consumed with revenge. He is able to obtain this revenge because he is extremely intelligent, wealthy, and psychotic; he has the ability to channel his feelings into different sub-personalities in order to prevent his main personality from experiencing debilitating guilt.
The Brander may be an ingenious serial killer but Roy Grace is an ingenious detective. With the help of his staff, Grace is able to find clues and establish connections. I kept thinking that he operates like FBI Special Agent Jason Gideon on the popular television series Criminal Minds. The real genius here, however, is the author himself, Peter James; he makes his writing incredibly realistic thanks to his tremendous amount of research. If he writes about an event, then that event has either happened or it could plausibly happen. You Are Dead has a tremendous amount of police and medical procedures. It primarily focuses on what actions police undertake when a citizen is abducted.
An entire city is terrorized by the Brander. If I was a young, attractive woman with long brown hair, I’d be staying home or not going anywhere alone. You Are Dead is a fast-paced novel that is packed with tension. The Brander carefully stalks his victims for months before making his move to abduct them. Then he hides the young women in a special place where no one will ever find them. At times, I was afraid he would be captured or killed, his hiding place would never be found, and the women would die. The ending was definitely a departure from the norm. I truly loved it, though some won’t. It reminded me of several of my beloved slasher flicks from the early eighties. Remember the ending in My Bloody Valentine? I kept waiting for a sequel, but it never came.
Hopefully, I won’t have to wait long for a sequel to Peter James’s You Are Dead. The author has created a most excellent cliffhanger that will keep all of his mystery fans in suspense until next year. In the meantime, fans with strong stomachs may want to watch all seven installments of the Saw series. They may also want to watch The Collector and The Collection. Furthermore, most of You Are Dead is set just days prior to Christmas when people are busy preparing for the holidays. I love horror movies and mystery novels that are set during the Christmas season. Perhaps it is the irony of holiday slasher flicks that thrills me. The “most wonderful time of the year” becomes the most horrifying.