LEFT YOU DEAD by Peter James (Macmillan, May 2021)
Peter James’ series about Brighton police detective Roy Grace has become a mainstay of the British crime scene over the past decade or so, and the latest entry in the series, Left You Dead, is another smoothly written tale of murder, mayhem and personal drama.
Niall Paternoster begrudgingly stops at the local supermarket so that his wife, Eden, can buy cat litter on their way back from their Sunday jaunt visiting country houses. When she doesn’t return to the car, he assumes that she is sulking and has made her own way home. But when she doesn’t turn up the next day he approaches the police, who encounter some discrepancies in his story. Grace is called in to investigate and soon becomes worried about Eden’s safety, but the more he digs the less sense the disappearance makes.
Complicating the case is the latest development in Grace’s ongoing battle with his superior, Assistant Chief Constable Cassian Pewe, and a devastating personal tragedy that affects the detective.
James is a skilled practitioner of the crime writer’s dark arts and he quickly puts the various elements of the tale in place and steadily ratchets up the emotional tension as the plot unfolds. The central story has some interesting quirks and it is enjoyable watching the police operation adjust and change as the plot twists and turns. The details of the investigation are credible and absorbing, and James smoothly weaves them into the story. As usual, he also skillfully moves the viewpoint between a variety of characters, and this frequent shifting of perspective heightens the interest and builds the suspense as the police investigation goes down some unexpected paths.
James is very good at creating appealing characters and Grace is a sympathetic protagonist who does not have the depth of dark flaws what we see in a lot of British detectives. The other members of Grace’s team, and his family, are also personable and well crafted, and the personal tragedies that unfold in Left You Dead will stun regular readers of the series with its emotional impact.
Those who enjoy crime novels for their suspense and the cunningness of the plot, may be put off by the focus on family matters and personal issues, but I suspect that fans of the series will be moved by it. Also while the story flows well, there is not a sense of urgency and danger until the end. Overall, Left You Dead is a finely produced piece of crime fiction that delivers some memorable shocks along the way to the satisfying ending.
Four stars out of five!
Left You Dead was released in Australia on 27 April 2021 and will be released in the United Kingdom on 15 May 2021. Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book.
Fans of the series will also be delighted to know that the first two novels in the Roy Grace series, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead, have been adapted for television by Endeavour’s Russell Lewis and that the first episodes have already been screened in the United Kingdom. It is not clear when, or on what viewing platform, it will be shown in Australia.