It’s been ages since there’s been a serial killer in the English city of Brighton, where Peter James sets his fanatically well-researched police procedurals starring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. They don’t know what they’re missing — until an authentic specimen comes to this seaside resort in YOU ARE DEAD (Minotaur, $27.99) and begins doing unspeakable things to young women with long dark hair.
There’s plenty of explicit violence here, as there is in other novels in this series; but that’s beside the point. Despite the horrific nature of the crimes, this is no guts-and-gore potboiler, but a meticulous study of police work as it’s conducted at the station houses, crime scenes, mortuaries and forensic labs outside the big cities. (Among other fun facts, these cops have to be granted permission for the “use of firearms in a spontaneous incident.”)
Following the protocol for a good procedural, the narrative dotes on Roy Grace, but it also tracks the work done by other members of the homicide team, like his salt-of-the-earth partner, Detective Inspector Glenn Branson. In that soap opera D.S. Grace calls his life, he’s still gaga over his second wife and their new baby, but there’s a fascinating development involving the fate of his first wife, long missing and presumed dead.