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James, Peter - 'Dead Man's Grip'
Paperback: 544 pages (Sep. 2011) Publisher: Pan ISBN: 033051556X

This is the seventh novel in the series featuring the Brighton detective Roy Grace. Separate chapters at the start of the book are used to introduce each of the people that subsequently become involved in the accidental death that is the focus of this novel. These are the hung-over single-parent female driver, the overtired lorry driver, and the about to be killed American student and cyclist. However, the driver of a white van that actually runs over the cyclist is kept anonymous.

Unfortunately, it then transpires that the dead cyclist happens to be the son of a Mafia family from New York, raising the possibility that the accident might be a 'hit'. The family offers a large reward for more information and then they pursue their own methods for retribution, in which anyone involved in the accident suddenly becomes under threat of murder, and in a most gruesome way.

Roy Grace is the lead detective, and as well as trying to drive the case forward, he has his own personal problems to deal with. He is a man haunted by the disappearance of own wife, who went missing many years ago leaving almost no trace. A recurrent theme in these books is the effect this has had on Roy, including his attempts to find her, without success. He is now in a steady relationship with Cleo, who is responsible for carrying out most of the autopsies of Roy's murder victims. She is expecting their baby and as a consequence, Roy has started to go through the process of declaring his wife dead. Finally, there is the usual tense climactic ending to save someone against all odds.

If you've read the previous Roy Grace books then you'll probably like this one, although I get the feeling that the format is getting a little old and tired. The characters involved in the accident are all a bit clichéd. The plot-line that links the accident victim to a mafia family leading to further bloodshed is a bit far-fetched, and the usual 'asides' to Roy's personal life, and those of his colleagues fairly uninteresting, and just seem like fillers. I really enjoyed some of the earlier books in this series, but this latest one just doesn't match up to them. Time to put Roy Grace out to grass?

Read another review of DEAD MAN'S GRIP.

Michelle Peckham, England
January 2012

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 15/01/2012 10:19