Tag Archives: Peter James

Keep the pages turning with You are Dead

you are deadBest-selling novelist Peter James has a winning formula in his Roy Grace series:  classic British police procedural crossed with suspenseful thriller.  You are Dead is #11 in the series.

It starts out with the abduction of a young woman while her horrified fiancé listens by cell phone to her scream, then the silence.  The tension ratchets up on the next page; it’s first line is “Felix is fine with the fact that I kill people.”  (A murdering trio and they’ve taken the woman.)  Then a short side trip to a construction site, where a skeleton is being unearthed.  (What the???)  Then back to the fiancé, who is careening down the highway, frantically dialing her cell and finally 999 (Britain’s version of 911).  Then to the police station where his call come in.

You’re only 15 pages in to the book, Roy Grace hasn’t even made his entrance yet, and you’re already through six chapters.  And James doesn’t let up until the very last page… it’s soon apparent that there’s a very twisted mind at work.  The good news is that the victim is still alive.  And the bad news is – she’s still alive.  Every few chapters, we get one from her perspective.  As her circumstances get more dire, the reader’s tension climbs.

Meanwhile, Grace and his team are working frantically to solve the crime.   When he does, the key to the solution lies deep in the past, but from a source that is very close at hand.

Regular readers of the Grace series will attest that the clever and caring Grace has a complicated personal life.   He’s finally ready to leave the memory of Sandy, his missing wife, behind and make a new life with a new love.  That personal situation promises to be only more confusing in the books to come.

Recommendation:  Although You are Dead easily stands alone, if you are new to the series, I strongly recommend reading them in order – especially if you love character development as much as I do!  Definite thumbs up.   New this year, so a great last-minute Christmas gift.




Evil lives at Bouchercon

Two of my three Friday Bouchercon panels featured evil, and I couldn’t have been happier.  Keeping to my commitment of three panels a day, evil was supplemented  with writing, a blog post, and even a visit to the fitness center (yay, me!).

First panel up, Evil Going On, was a hit.  Does evil truly exist?  Panelists were divided and the conversation was hot.  The moderator was the very erudite Reed Farrel Coleman, with panelists including John Connolly, Thomas H. Cook, Peter James, Laura Lippman, and Daniel Woodrell.  I was jazzed for the topic and also for hearing so many of my favorites.  Some key thoughts:

  1. There are two schools of thought about evil: nature (person is born irretrievably flawed and does evil things) vs. nurture (bad things done to child twist him, now he does evil things).
  2. The motivation for evil is often selfishness.  Rationalization plays its part.
  3. There is a trend today toward complicated protagonists, who may do wrong in order to achieve justice.
  4. Addressing the evil of man in a book is one thing – addressing it in real life, when there is risk and danger, is another.

The “evil” trend continued with the Dark Angel panel, where Chris Holm, Bill Cameron, Blake Crouch, Leighton Gage, Theresa Schwegel and Michael Wiley discussed morally challenged heroes.   Ideas generated:

  1. Noir heroes tend to be morally challenged.
  2. A corrupt setting leads to a hero who has to bend the rules but still seeks justice.
  3. Heroes can be moral in one way – the good cop – and immoral in another way – having an affair.
  4. Immoral?  Amoral?  Or moral ambiguity?  Discuss.

The final panel of the day was perhaps the least directly instructive – no notes on ideas of things to do – but the most fun.  It was moderated by the witty and endearing Joseph Finder with a panel of articulate and passionate women, including Laurie R. King, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid and S.J. Rozan.

Absolutely the most fun hour I’ve spent at Bouchercon, and included anecdotes related to a smack-down between Val and Ian Rankin, Laura Lippman’s husband’s work on the TV show Treme, S.J. Rozan’s dream basketball team, and Laurie King’s endeavor to let Holmes age, but never die.  Photo here is Val McDermid, who is fun and witty, and everything she says sounds even better because of her rich Scottish accent.  I looked for a photo of her wearing devil/angel garb.  No go.

I got to ask the question “What new authors are you reading now that you would recommend?”  Here’s the list.  Go buy some books.

  1. Gillian Flynn
  2. Megan Abbott
  3. Lisa Lutz
  4. Sarah Grand
  5. Lindsay Faye
  6. M.J. McGrath
  7. Stuart Neville
  8. Taylor Stevens
  9. Nathan Larson