Book Review

Photo by Moira Dillon on Unsplash 

Left You Dead, by Peter James

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace’s latest case is not an easy one; although it probably wouldn’t make for a particularly engaging story if it was, would it? There are three main reasons for this: first of all, a distressed husband’s missing person case is very quickly converted to a murder inquiry, but without the aid of a body; secondly, he is being oh-so-politely hounded by his superior, ACC Cassian Pewe; and thirdly, before he can really get to grips with the case, he is beset by a family tragedy. The first two can be deconstructed, but to do this with the third would unhelpfully forewarn the reader, so I will eschew that. The disappearance of the wife appears to be straightforward, albeit mysterious, the way it is presented at the commencement of the narrative, but the husband is not the most attractive of human beings, in a rounded sense, and it is this which sets the ‘Spidey-senses’ of Grace and his colleague, DI Glenn Branson, tingling in very short order [notwithstanding the proclivity of the police, albeit possibly stereotypical, to suspect the messenger in preference to investigating the message], and before long, they have accumulated enough circumstantial evidence to arrest the man.

Further evidence is uncovered by Grace & his sizeable team, which includes a surveillance group, but the use of this facility is jeopardised, and it is even temporarily removed by Pewe, which Grace inevitably interprets as malicious, despite the operational reasons being justifiable, however debatable. What Pewe doesn’t know, at the outset, is that Grace has a source of ostensibly credible & reliable evidence against him, which could end his career, although Grace is painfully aware that this venture could also go badly wrong, because the source is a discredited police officer, so he has to bide his time and continue to be acquiescent with Pewe, and avoid being too obviously insubordinate. On the plus side for Grace, he has a very happy marriage with Cleo, who is a medical examiner [pathologist] and currently pregnant, but they also have a toddler, Noah, and these provide him with welcome solace from his tribulations; although the family tragedy inevitably involves Cleo, as Grace’s wife. Other dimensions to the ‘missing body’ murder inquiry are fed into the narrative as it progresses, but these cannot be revealed here! Suffice to say that Grace & his team have to revise their assessment of the situation [and perhaps, in the process, examine their preconceptions?] several times before a dénouement is reached.

This is a substantial hardback of 482 pages, but it does mean that the pacing can be relatively slow, so the development of the narrative can be savoured & enjoyed, like a gourmet meal. A second TV dramatisation of a Roy Grace book has now been produced, following on from the first story, Dead Simple, reviewed here, and very sensibly, it is the second book chronologically, Looking Good Dead, again starring the ever-capable John Simm as Roy Grace; although the screenwriting duty was assigned to Russell Lewis in both cases—having enjoyed the first, I look forward to watching the second, as soon as it becomes available on one of the ITV channels. The hardback I read was published in 2021 by Macmillan, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, London, ISBN 978-1-5290-0424-3.

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