“Dead at First Sight” by Peter James is book fifteen in the Roy Grace series, but new readers can easily follow the characters and the story. James seamlessly provides any needed information about past events as part of the storyline. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, Head of Major Crime for Sussex Police, encounters the emotional devastation wrought by internet scammers, and uncovers the dark and sometimes lethal side of online identity fraud and internet romance deception, something that has cost victims over a billion dollars in the last year.
James tells the stories of participants on all sides of the internet swindle. The stories are emotionally and financially devastating; people lose life savings and self-respect. The characters are complex and multi layered. Readers get to them well, the victims, the perpetrators, the ruthless, and the avenging. Actions are told from various points of view so readers picture the whole chain of events and the consequences of internet treachery.
James entices readers with hints of what is to come. “Had he known the consequences that were to follow, he would never have picked the phone up.” Events take place over just a few weeks, and the story and people are complex on many levels. Victims go public and lay traps to catch offenders; villains hunt victims who discover the swindle to shut them up, and online scammers protect their business by hunting rogue offenders to kill them. Everyone is after someone else, and DS Grace and his team have to sort all this out, catch the criminals, protect the innocent, and keep both groups from imploding and killing each other.
Police actions are interspersed with everyday events to remind readers that characters are people after all, with normal joys and problems both at work and at home. There is also humor in the midst of trauma and monetary disaster including the chance of recovering lost money when pigs fly and people as inconspicuous as two sharks in a toddler’s paddling pool.
“Dead at First Sight’ is a compelling story with social importance, compelling characters, and lessons for this digital age; guard your privacy; do not believe everything you see online, except great book reviews.