James, Peter - 'Dead Like You'
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to take charge of a spate of brutal rapes in Brighton, Sussex where he is based. In all of the crimes the victim was wearing expensive, designer stiletto heels and the rapist steals the shoes. Grace realises that these new cases bear remarkable similarities with a lot of unsolved cases that occurred in the city back in 1997. Grace at that time was a Detective Sergeant and the perpetrator was dubbed the "Shoe Man" and was believed to have raped four women before murdering his fifth victim then vanishing. Are the present day crimes the act of a copycat or has the "Shoe Man" resurfaced?
The reference to 1997, gives the author the opportunity to go back over the old case and how Grace and his colleagues coped with it. It also provided an opportunity to reappraise Roy Grace's relationship with his first wife, Sandy, who mysteriously disappeared. The reference between the two cases, the present day one and the crimes that happened in 1997 are cross referred to, almost page by page. In fact every two pages is a new chapter and there is a time shift of ten years between each one which can be very confusing, although I found the urgent need to find out where Roy was going with this made me forget the irritation I felt.
This sixth title in Peter James's 'Roy Grace' series handles the difficult subject of stranger rapes in a fairly sympathetic way. It would be very easy for an author of James standing to do yet another book about a serial murderer like so many of his contemporaries but no, he has written about a subject which from a male author, it is very easy to be cynical about. Rape is a very under-reported crime (only about 2-4% of actual rapes get reported), and this is very easy to appreciate when one experiences the trauma of the victim and the disbelief and cynicism of the Police and Crown Prosecution service for oneself. About 15 years ago I served on a jury at the Old Bailey trial of three young men accused of multiple rape of a drunken girl. We were all shocked at the humiliation the rape victim had to undergo during cross examination by the defence barristers. The victim's previous sexual history was dragged out of her although it was completely irrelevant. The jury spent a night embargoed in a Mayfair hotel because we couldn't agree on the guilt of the accused. So, whilst rape prosecutions may have improved over the years since then and the police may be less cynical in their approach, it still takes a lot for victims to come forward, particularly when you consider the way tabloid newspapers report these crimes.
This book is very long at 648 pages but once you get past the first 50 or so I found it quite a page turner with the controversy between the possible suspects of the "Shoe Man" and a copycat pulling me forward and I found I finished very quickly. I think I may have preferred his earlier titles in this series but because this book is on a different subject to the usual serial murder sort of thing I thought it very entertaining.
Read another review of DEAD LIKE YOU.
Terry Halligan, England