Love You Dead | Peter James | 2016 | Macmillan | 448p | Gift | Buy the book
Jodie Bentley is a clever, attractive, charismatic woman in her thirties. She owns a luxurious house, complete with cat, in an oppulent part of Brighton. But she is driven by such a hunger. As a child, Jodie wanted two things – to be beautiful (plastic surgery helped her sort this out) and to be ridiculously wealthy. She soon picked up from her family that the only hope she had of achieving this aim was to marry a rich husband. All these years on, Jodie is still striving to make the perfect match. She’s had a good go (Jodie is nothing if not tenacious) and hasn’t done too badly, but she’s still working on that most difficult of roles – not wife, but grieving widow. And, yet again, it’s time to look for the next Mr Right, or should that be Mr Rich?
Much is going well for Brighton-based Detective Superintendant Roy Grace. His marriage to Cleo is such a happy one, enriched by their little son Noah. But he cannot shake off his worries – about the outcome of a previous case that continues to haunt him, and about his previous wife, Sandy, who disappeared without trace ten years before. Distraction comes from a call from the US. A gangster has been found in a hotel, murdered in the most terrible of ways. He was last seen with a woman who was staying at the hotel under a pseudonym. This is hardly surprising. The woman had recently escorted her fiance’s body back from France where he had died in a tragic skiing accident. He had been extremely wealthy but the FBI were on to him and the media were hooked. The police have good reason to believe that the woman may have stolen a suitcase from the gangster (who had still been alive at the time) before making her escape back to her hometome of Brighton in the UK. Unfortunately, it’s not just the police who are after this woman, so too is the mafia. It would be good if Roy Grace could find her first.
Love You Dead is the twelfth novel in Peter James’s Roy Grace series and, although it stands quite well alone, it does follow on directly from You Are Dead and so I’d recommend that you read that first. If you don’t, you may find out a little too much about what went before. Roy Grace is after closure, in his work and in his private life, and this novel takes some further steps on that journey.
I am a relative newcomer to the Roy Grace novels but I am absolutely hooked. I love the character of Roy Grace. Sometimes he can seem a little too perfect, too polite (if such a thing is possible), but he is a comforting presence to be around. He feels suitably authoritative, in control, even though he might doubt that in himself. He’s a good leader and a fair few of his subordinates are his friends (I really enjoyed Norman Potting). He has his issues with his superior but Grace can handle him. The problems in his personal life come to a head in Love You Dead and, surprisingly considering the situation, there might be worry but there is little drama. It is, I think, satisfying for the reader, for this one at least.
The star of Love You Dead is undoubtedly Jodie Bentley. She’s quite a character, hardly likeable but creepily ‘normal’ in so many ways. Cold, calculating, efficient and deadly – the Black Widow. Becoming caught up with the mafia might have been a mistake but Jodie’s sure she can handle it. It’s certainly fun watching her do it. There are other baddies in this novel, too, and, although we might not spend as much time with them as Jodie, they steal our attention. I love the way that Peter James can find some good in anyone.
Love You Dead is not a whodunnit, it’s a character-driven crime thriller and it is such an enjoyable, entertaining read. Roy Grace has quite a rival for our attention in Jodie but I liked the way the novel moved between the two, contrasting characters, experiences in love, as well as presenting a meticulous police investigation. There is a lot of detail here about police procedure and methodology and this is a strong part of the series’ appeal. Love You Dead is such a strong crime novel, lightened by a dash of sentiment, that carries the reader along with its fine storytelling, plotting and masterful characterisation.
You Are Dead