“Dead if You Don’t” by Peter James is the most recent book featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Readers new to the series will be able to follow the story immediately; return readers will find all the familiar characters from the previous books and learn a little more about them.
The book opens with an ominous sound “Tappity-tap, tappity-tap” as a small ball skitters over the numbers on a roulette wheel. It is Thursday, and readers are introduced to Kip Brown at the casino. “Today will be different,” he thinks, and it will, but he has no idea how horribly different the next few days will be.
The story progresses non-stop over the next four days, and the chapters are identified with the date and time to emphasize the frantic pace as events unfold. All seems idyllic on Friday as a bride-to-be in Albania contemplates the future. Things are not as pleasant at The Amex Stadium when Adrian Morris receives a threatening phone call. A voice warns him that there will be a bomb under one of the seats at the stadium Saturday unless a ransom is paid. Then, on Saturday, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace attends the Seagulls football game at Amex Stadium with his ten-year old son Bruno. Things deteriorate from there.
The characters are complex and multi-faceted. The descriptions are so accurate that one could pick each out on the bus, in the store, or in a lineup.
“a stocky, energetic civilian with short dark hair turning grey, and dressed in a blue t-shirt, jeans, and trainers.
Places are described with equal precision.
“The only other items of furniture in the cavernous space were two chairs, which looked as if they’d been retrieved from a skip, and a rack of Dexion shelving on which stood several jars of chemicals marked with danger symbols.”
James is an expert storyteller, and he reveals the action in multiple storylines that intersect and detach in a web of complications. The pace is frantic as complex events unfold, and time runs out on all sides.
“Dead if You Don’t” is a wild ride with twists and turns at every corner. James pulls the story threads together with expert skill and surprises that grab the reader. This is a compelling book, and a difficult one to put down. I loved it.