Not Dead Enough by Peter James

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Not Dead Enough by Peter James

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A good story line, but the book needs to be have a lot of the descriptive passages which add nothing to the plot taken out. It's annoying because it could be so much better.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2007
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 978-0330446129

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Brian Bishop is a successful businessman with a home in Brighton and a flat in London. On the night that his wife is murdered in their Brighton home he has a reasonably strong alibi, having been in a London restaurant until quite late the previous evening and seen putting his golf clubs in his car outside the flat early the following morning. Yet the police have compelling evidence that Bishop was the murderer and when another woman is brutally murdered in similar circumstances it seems that Bishop might be a serial killer. Sophie Harrington had told her friends that she was having an affair with Brian Bishop and whilst he admits to knowing her he denies that they were having an affair. Superintendent Roy Grace is under pressure from within his own police force and the media to bring the case to a speedy conclusion.

If you're looking for a good story line then this book has one, with two young women dead and someone in the frame for the murders who seems at one moment to be obviously guilty and then to be the victim of mistaken identity - and then obviously guilty again. I thought that I had the answer about halfway through the book, but although I was on the right track there were still some unexpected twists and turns and the solution was well done. The author has the ability to build dramatic tension and uses it well. There are the makings of a very good book at the point where an editor should go through it and suggest an awful lot of cuts.

The book is padded. It's just about impossible to go into any building without getting a list of the notices on the wall (and having them reproduced word for word in some cases) and all the architectural details. Sometimes I felt as though I was doing a viewing with an estate agent and might be expected to make an offer. I frequently found myself skimming whole pages looking for where the story began again.

Characterisation is variable. Roy Grace seems to rely heavily on watching which way people's eyes flick when they're asked a question, as he did in the first book in the series. It's an interesting point but over-used. Fortunately he didn't resort to his photographic memory (which he possessed in the first book in the series) or to the use of a medium to solve the case. He's the typical successful policeman not beloved of his superiors (such as Ian Rankin's Rebus) and with psychological problems (think Henning Mankell's Inspector Kurt Wallander or Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse). Grace's wife disappeared without trace some nine years ago and whilst this is brought into play in the plot I did feel that more could have been made of the mental conflict for Grace.

The other characters tick all the necessary boxes. There's the black detective sergeant with the cool clothes and marital problems, the old lag everyone hates and the cocky young constable. Every police procedural seems to have them in one form or another. I warmed to the potential villain, Brian Bishop, but the plucky young heroine, Cleo Morey who's Grace's new girlfriend, didn't entirely convince. A lot of the time she simply annoyed me.

I'll confess that I wasn't certain about reading this book. I'd read the first in the series and found it disappointing and formulaic. This book is an improvement but far from meriting its place in the best-seller lists. I think Mr James could do an awful lot better and his readers really should expect it of him.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If you're looking for a good police procedural then it's difficult to better Ian Rankin, but you might also like to look at Benjamin Black's Christine Falls. It's not strictly a police procedural but is probably one of the best crime novels written in recent years.

Buy Not Dead Enough by Peter James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Not Dead Enough by Peter James at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Not Dead Enough by Peter James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Not Dead Enough by Peter James at Amazon.com.

Peter James' Roy Grace Novels in Chronological Order

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Claire Holty said:

I also thought that this book could have been better. He had a really good plot, like the reviewer, I guessed about half way through who the killer was, but there was too much about his personal life, OK when the murderer involved his girlfriend, but a lot was irrelevant. Whatever your problems you put them aside when you go to work, whether you work in an office or in the police force, if he was as good a detective as he thought he was then he wouldn't let his personal life get into his work life. I am sure that people do not consistently flick their eyes to one side or another, you would get a headache! Imagine being in court and saying to the judge "I knew he was lying because of his eyes". But I was impressed enough to read the first book in this series.