Dead Simple – Peter James
Peter James is an author I have heard a lot of good things about but have never got round to reading. My wife has often mentioned the premise of this book and I had to admit it sounds good. I mean a stag (not the deer variety) trapped in a coffin – how cool is that?
It was meant to be a harmless stag night prank. A few hours later four of his best friends are dead, and Michael Harrison has disappeared. With only three days to the wedding, Detective Superintendent Grace - a man haunted by the shadow of his own missing wife - is contacted by Michael's beautiful, distraught fiancee, Ashley Harper. Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know Michael Harrison's whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot to gain - more than anyone realizes. For one man's disaster is another man's fortune ...
“Dead Simple,” marks the start of the Roy Grace series. Roy himself is not immediately introduced which is refreshing as it allows the author to flesh out some of the secondary characters more.
In order to build a successful series of books around a character that character needs to be interesting and often they have to have a flaw. All too often that flaw is an addiction to alcohol which as a stereotype can get a little tedious. Grace’s flaw is that he sometimes uses mediums to help him solve crimes. It is a refreshing idea, as Peter James plays with people’s prejudices towards such a notion and has Grace ridiculed by colleague’s and chastised by his superiors.
At the start of the novel, Grace’s propensity towards the supernatural have a direct impact on a case he is working on and makes for a great side story, however this fades away as the main plot kicks in which is a shame.
Grace also has a past which is intriguing. His wife vanished from his life and was never found. It adds another dimension to his character as he tries to move on with his life but can’t quite let go.
The rest of the characters aren’t quite as well realised, although that does not necessarily make them boring. They all have their functions to play and do not stray too far from it. For example, Michael is the groom-to-be trapped in the coffin and despairing in the process, Ashley is the grieving widow and everyone else is only distinctive by their job title.
For such a good premise, there is only one way for the novel to go in order for it to be a crime novel. In a sense then, the story is highly predictable. Thankfully Peter James recognises this it seems and reveals some of his hand halfway through the book which helps the momentum going.
Maybe, I’ve read too many crime novels but there were numerous plot holes in “Dead Simple,” normally I don’t look for them as they spoil my enjoyment but there were a couple of glaring ones here or instances where characters did not make logical choices. To detail them would spoil the story but I did find myself screaming at some characters every now and then to check the obvious.
Overall for a debut novel this was an enjoyable read. The prose was quick and easy and I whizzed through the pages. Peter James has also introduced secondary characters that I want to find out more about, which is always a good sign in a series. “Dead Simple” was not without its problems but a quick read I’d recommend.
My rating: 7.9