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Dead if You Don’t by Peter James

With more than 19 million copies of his books sold in 37 languages around the world, Peter James has won a raft of awards, including the coveted CWA Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award for sustained excellence. After reading Dead if You Don’t, it’s easy to see why Peter’s books are so popular.


The novel opens with a bomb threat when Amex Stadium, near Sussex, is due to host their first Premier League game. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is at the match with his son, and he does the unthinkable to try and stop the bomb from exploding. But before he has time to consider the risk he has taken and the trouble he may be in, Roy Grace is brought in to investigate the kidnapping of a teenage boy, Mungo, taken from the same football match.


His parents are beside themselves, especially after having lost their daughter to a road accident four years earlier. Kipp Brown, the father, has been having the worst run of his life. A successful businessman, he has been gambling heavily since losing their daughter – and now he has gambled away all their money. So when the kidnappers demand a ransom Kipp has no money to give them, and, of course, he blames himself for taking his eyes off his son for a few moments to talk to a client.


At first, it seems like a straightforward case of kidnap. But rapidly Roy Grace finds himself entering a dark, criminal underbelly of the city, where the rules are different, and nothing is what it seems, and it seems that the attempted bombing, the kidnapping, the discovery of body parts, and a drug mule death all link back to the same Eastern European criminal gang.


Dead if You Don’t is heart-palpitating read, where the clock is ticking down to a deadline where either Mungo will be rescued or he will die. There are twists and turns galore, but Peter James is a master of bringing all the strands together. The tension never eases off until the very end, and while some of the content was much too visceral for my liking, the characters are brilliant. Roy Grace is a principled detective, and I’ve enjoyed reading other books with him in the starring role. He’s intelligent, resourceful, incredibly brave, but also saddled with a boss who is out to make his life a misery. He’s a well-rounded, honourable man. This is the 14th book with Roy Grace at the helm, and it has been very enjoyable to see the personal and professional lives of Roy Grace and his team develop. And in this case, Kipp Brown is a character readers have met before in a previous book. But all the books can read as stand-alone books, so Peter James juggles the overarching needs for development in a book series, with also creating page-turning books that can be enjoyed as stand-alone reads at the same time.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Macmillan, RRP $34.99

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