Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James

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Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: A body of a woman is found in a storm drain; subsequent investigation proves that she was the wife of a dodgy businessman who apparently died in the 9/11 disaster. Then the second wife of the same businessman is found dead in Australia. Coincidence? DCI Roy Grace doesn't think so...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2008
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 978-0330446136

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Detective Superintendent Roy Grace doesn't have an easy job. First of all, the body of a woman is found in a storm drain; she later proves to be the wife of a 'businessman', Ronnie Wilson, who died in the 9/11 disaster, but the discovery of her body serves to remind Grace of his own missing wife. Then another body is discovered in a river in Australia; breast implants prove that she is Ronnie Wilson's second wife, yet she was supposed to have committed suicide shortly after her husband's death in the Twin Towers. Is there a connection between the two murders? If so, does this mean that Wilson is still alive? And who is the woman living in Brighton who seems to be running for her life? Roy Grace must pool all his resources to find out the truth.

This is the first Peter James book that I have read, but I have to admit, within just a few pages, I was impressed. There is just such a lot going on. Chapters are kept very short, usually just two or three pages, but they alternate between a number of characters. One is Abby, a woman who appears to be running from somebody, in fear of her life. There is Ronnie Wilson, whose story begins back in 2001 around the time of 9/11, and his wife at the time, Lorraine. There is a nameless man who is chasing Abby. And of course, there is Roy Grace and his colleagues, all of whom are trying to piece together what initially appears to be a series of investigations.

Splitting up the story like this is very effective; I spent several late nights reading this book, wanting to find out what was going to happen to a particular character before I went to sleep and, with the short chapters, thinking that I would just read one more chapter... The different strands of the story are quite difficult to follow to begin with, but this just adds to the frenetic pace of the book and really encouraged me to keep reading. As the plot progresses, the different strands are slowly woven together, yet the author keeps just enough back to keep the reader guessing.

Towards the middle of the book, the pace does begin to wane a little and I became slightly less enamoured of the plot. This really doesn't last for very long though; I think that the author really knows what he is doing, because just at the point where I might have given up, another clue is thrown into the mix and I was hooked again. There are a couple of points that are fairly major to the investigation that I found to be overly contrived, which prevented the book from deserving a five star rating; for example, the lead that Grace is given to Abby is tenuous to say the least and its preposterousness was really distracting. However, they were fairly minor disadvantages to what is otherwise a good thriller.

I am new to the world of Peter James and his character but I have to admit that I didn't really see anything new in Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. He is the usual slightly jaded copper who drinks too much, has failed relationships and is a bit of a maverick. However, in my opinion, there is one point that raises him above Rankin's Rebus, Billingham's Thorne and Robinson's Banks and that is his past. We find out through the course of the investigation that Grace's wife, Sandy, went missing several years before and has never reappeared. There are hints throughout the story that she may suddenly be brought into the story, and I found this really fascinating. Her situation is not fully discussed in this book, but it has been left open to be discussed in the future and I must admit this is a great draw for me - I really can't wait until the next book comes out to see what happens!

The way that Peter James writes is perfect for this style of book - the language used is plain and to the point. Combined with the short chapter format, this makes for great reading, particularly for a holiday. I was slightly put off at the beginning by the length of the book - the hardback version has 400 pages and it looks really hefty - but because of the short chapters, I soon galloped through to the end.

I didn't have any great expectations of this book before I read it, but I did really enjoy it. It isn't outstanding - there are a whole host of authors telling similar stories - but the pacing was great, and, even if the story wasn't particularly original, it did draw me in very quickly. If you enjoy, and haven't yet become totally jaded by, modern day crime fiction, then you will almost certainly enjoy this book. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this book, then you may also like Knots And Crosses by Ian Rankin, Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham and Cold in Hand by John Harvey.

Peter James' Roy Grace Novels in Chronological Order

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Buy Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James at


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