What Makes A Killer?

“Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.

When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalisingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined…”

“Need You Dead”, the thirteenth entry in Peter James‘ police procedural series centred around Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his team based in Brighton, finds the main man busy with case files for trials relating to Jodie Bentley and Dr. Edward Crisp – characters involved in the previous book “Love You Dead”.

On top of that Grace is having to arrange for his late first wife Sandy’s funeral (she committed suicide in Germany) and preparing for the ten-year old German son that he didn’t know existed, Bruno, to come and live with current wife Cleo, baby Noah and him in their quiet Sussex home.

Grace’s usual sidekick is away on holiday with his girlfriend so when a suspicious death – that of home-based hairdresser Lorna Belling – is referred to his team Grace decides to use acting DI Guy Batchelor to lead the investigation under his supervision.

The case is one that constantly shifts focus as the number of suspects increases – did Lorna kill herself? It’s possible but then her husband has a history of abusive behaviour. So does a man who wanted to buy Lorna’s car, and then there’s the man (or men?!) that she was having an affair with in an attempt to escape her marriage. So many possibilities and precious little clarity mean that the team struggle to make meaningful progress.

Peter James

I thought I’d figured it out soon after the half-way point, only to realise about three pages before James made the revelation that I’d fallen for one of his red herrings!…

Some reviewers have complained that the book is rather dry, with too much detail in the police procedures. Personally I find that this makes the whole story feel more authentic. I have previously written about my reservations over the Sandy storyline. Well, with her death that could have come to a conclusion, but the introduction of Bruno as a new part of Grace’s family means that effectively the remnants of Grace’s first marriage will stay with us as the series progresses. Whether that will be a positive or not remains to be seen.

In terms of this book I would say that although I enjoyed it immensely I can see that readers new to James and this series might have issues due to the number of references to past events. If you haven’t followed the series then you might find yourself rather puzzled over some of these.

For the future, there is presumably something to come from Grace’s nemesis ACC Cassian Pewe’s conversations in German with young Bruno, as well as from the suggestions that the boy may have mental health issues. No doubt James will expand on these as Grace’s adventures continue but, again, would mean little to anyone reading “Need You Dead” in isolation from previous stories.

I was slightly perplexed at the end of the book with – SPOILER ALERT – the  deadly spider crawling up Noah’s cot, as that plot element seemed to come from nowhere and just got left unresolved. Overall however I must say that this is yet another excellent novel from the very reliable Peter James. Most definitely recommended reading for lovers of great crime thriller fiction…

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