Find Them Dead, by Peter James
This is a recent publication by this author, but he is very prolific, so it is actually only, to date, the fourth most recent, according to his official website, www.peterjames.com: the most recent is scheduled to be published this month—September 2022; he certainly keeps Roy Grace busy, although evidently not as busy as the author! Interestingly, but incidentally [and actually insignificantly, with regard to this review], from his personal bio on the website, it transpires that he attended Charterhouse School, of which originally four [then later three, and finally two] members of one of my all-time favourite music groups, Genesis, were also alumni: they appear to have been contemporaries, but whether they knew each other, I can’t say. It is mere speculation that the school had a large influence upon his writing style: he won a poetry prize in 1967; but I think it’s also very likely that his subsequent, pre-author career [read his aforementioned bio for details] also played a significant part. Either way, he has been extremely successful, in terms of sales, since then.
This story is essentially about jury-fixing, but as usual with good crime stories, it is not one-dimensional; also, it is as much a courtroom drama, as it is a police procedural. In addition to a high-profile court case, which Grace’s erstwhile colleague, Glenn Branson, is dealing with, there is a brutal murder, which initially appears to be unconnected to the trial, but Grace’s input supplies the connection. He has just finished a placement with the Metropolitan Police, at a higher rank than previously and, although he felt that his work, identifying the causes of the knife crime epidemic in the capital and attempting to mitigate it, rather than expecting to eliminate it, was useful, he wanted to return to his home ‘turf’, even if that meant again being subordinate to his hated superior officer, Cassian Pewe: the tip-off Grace receives before his return, about an illegal drugs mastermind operating out of Brighton, confirms his decision.
The murder victim is a young lad with Down’s syndrome, and he is the younger brother of a low-level drugs trafficker who has been arrested when importing a replica Ferrari which is found to contain a large amount of cocaine. He pleads guilty to all charges but, although he works for a company owned by the apparently respectable local solicitor who is suspected of being the mastermind of the local County Lines operation, he claims not to either know, or have ever met the solicitor. One of the jurors for the solicitor’s trial is a woman, Meg Magellan, who is currently between executive-level marketing positions; five years ago, she lost her husband and son in a car accident, and her only remaining child, a daughter, Laura, is away in Ecuador, travelling on a gap year. Unfortunately, she is an easy target for the criminals who seem to know her mother’s every move, to ensure that she can influence the jury sufficiently to deliver the ‘not guilty’ verdict which will clear the solicitor.
Naturally, despite her revulsion at what she is being coerced into doing, she will do whatever she can to give the criminals what they want, to keep her daughter safe, even though she only knows of one possible ally on the jury, making her life a misery while the trial proceeds, because she has been warned that revealing her complicity to the authorities will be fatal for her daughter. Grace’s private life isn’t ignored in this story, at the expense of the crime aspects: his wife, Cleo suffers a miscarriage—they already have one infant, Noah, and they wanted to try for another baby—but Grace’s son, Bruno, from his previous marriage, is also with them, although he is not the easiest of boys to accommodate; but all this notwithstanding, he is happy to be home again. This is another eminently readable and—for me—enjoyable entry in the Roy Grace canon, and I am always happy to find new, unread ones. The hardback I read was published in 2020, by Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-5290-0430-4.