This is the first time I’ve read Peter James after hearing it reviewed positively on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It really is a page turner! The chapters are very to fairly short which makes it a great book for people like me who have a 25 minute train commute – you can usually time the finishing of the chapters just right for your stop. I for one am glad that this was the first book I read this year and 2011 has begun with a bang!
The book involves a stag night prank of burying a mate in a coffin. If this seems somewhat unlikely, James does get away with explaining the history that leads to this event, making it plausible enough to stick with it. When the perpetrators are killed in a van crash our man is trapped in the coffin with only one person in the world knowing where he is; and that person has most to gain by him staying lost (trust me I give nothing away, we’re only up to page 40 or 50 here!). Therein hangs the first of many twists; there are several, yet somehow they are nearly all credible within the confines of this tale. And speaking of confines, some of the coffin scenes really are claustrophobic to read.
The slight downsides then. As has been referenced elsewhere the author I believe has been a scriptwriter in the States and at times there is an Americanisation to the story that grates ever so slightly, including the use of American type terminology that wouldn’t naturally be used here. Stylistically it has more of an American feel than say a traditional English crime fiction feel about it. I don’t say that this is bad, by the way, but just be aware that PD James it ain’t (and that may well be a good thing for some of you)! The ending is also a little rushed and slightly partly contrived, but by then you’ve rattled along with the book at such a pace that you forgive this minor(ish) transgression.
Fast paced with an unusual and cracking good plot, full of unexpected twists and turns, this read keeps your eyes riveted to the pages from the very first line. You cant put it down. Peter James has an easy, highly readable style with an excellent use of good, modern English, refreshingly free of swearing and bad language as his story races along, regardless of the coarseness of the villains. The plot is so gripping it literally has you gasping for breath. Quite apart from the main story, the book is also full of fascinating information and details, particularly from the detective, Roy Grace.
Quite apart from the brilliance of this plot, threads in this book regarding Grace and his personal life will certainly, with another brilliant story, draw the reader along to buy the next one in the Roy Grace detective series. At some stage the mystery of his own wife’s disappearance must be revealed… But in the meantime, if you haven’t read Dead Simple, do yourself a favour. It’s a great read in the crime detective-genre.
Dead Simple; James, Peter; Pan Books; $9.99