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Dead Simple by PETER JAMES
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Dead Simple (original 2005; edition 2005)

by PETER JAMES

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934489,334 (3.71)47
Member:Jennie_103
Title:Dead Simple
Authors:PETER JAMES
Info:PAN (2005), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Lit and Phil
Rating:****
Tags:Crime, UK, series, stag night, buried alive, marriage for money

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Dead Simple by Peter James (2005)

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Stag nights have changed significantly over the years. No longer just an opportunity for a drink or three down the local boozer with your best mates, nowadays stag dos – and their not-to-be-outdone female companion, hen dos – and more likely to see the potential groom flying off to Prague or Amsterdam with every male companion he can persuade to holiday with him. Regardless of your opinions on this development, I can promise you that no-one wants a stag night like Michael Harrison’s.

== What’s it about? ==

Michael is a renowned prankster whose friends have experienced his devious tricks too many times, particularly on their own stag nights. But that’s okay: tonight they are going to get their revenge. What appears to be quite a traditional stag do has been given a vicious twist which no-one could expect the groom to enjoy, but matters take a further turn for the worse when Michael disappears and his stag night companions die.

One man should have some answers, but he’s claiming ignorance. It’s up to DS Roy Grace, a man whose own wife disappeared without a trace nine years ago, to find Michael and discover the truth about the missing man’s best friend and his beautiful, distressed fiancee.

== What’s it like? ==

Thoroughly rooted in police procedure (with one key and incredibly irritating exception). Packed with big twists to make you draw a pantomime-esque intake of sharp breath and cry ‘ooh’, this is a gripping (albeit occasionally frustrating) read.

‘Dead Simple’ introduces us to DS Roy Grace, who is the lead detective in Peter James’ hugely popular ‘Dead’ series, so it’s good that he’s a largely interesting and sympathetic character with a backstory just waiting to be fully developed, but at times he seems so far behind the curve it’s a bit odd. Yes, the reader has a significant advantage in that we are given increasingly surprising glimpses into the lives of Michael’s closest companions – his best friend and business partner, Mark, and his beautiful fiancee, Ashley – but even Grace is briefly surprised at one point when he wonders why no-one in the police force (including him) has made a rather obvious connection.

Then again, he is rather tired, and James shows us clearly how dedicated police officers struggle to balance work and home life (at least Grace doesn’t have much of the latter to worry about, though we do witness him have to repeatedly bail out of the few personal commitments he does make). I really enjoyed the procedural elements, where Grace is briefing his team members, hearing their reports, crunching the numbers (there’s a wonderful moment where his face goes white as he realises he’s ‘wasted the best part of a thousand pounds of his budget on soil analysis’) and attending autopsies. This is James’ strength, and it was no surprise to learn at Crimefest16 that he has spent many a fascinating hour out on patrol with his local police force, nor that he views the police as “a major part of the glue that holds our society together”. Certainly, this book presents a positive view of the officers it features: all are hardworking and diligent, though one (younger) officer is perhaps a little trusting.

== Final thoughts ==

The twists are truly stunning, and it’s easy to see why James has been in talks to get the Grace series televised; the development of the storyline is fantastically dramatic and will likely have you leafing back through previous chapters to check and see if you missed any obvious pointers…then holding your head in frustration as the police continue to miss vital clues (budget constraints mean Grace opts not to put a watch on his main suspect). The claustrophobia of one character’s experience is well-evoked and I imagine that if you’re familiar with Brighton’s roads, you may well be able to follow in detail the book’s denouement.

As for the denouement itself…this was a little disappointing. In essence, after a lengthy chase scene, Grace (and Peter James) cheat. Can’t solve the case? Let’s involve the supernatural. Now, leaving aside the question of your dis/belief in the supernatural (James and his detective are believers), it’s disappointing that a case so focused on procedure had an ending that side-stepped it. For resolute disbelievers, this disappointment is likely to be compounded by irritation, which is a shame at the end of an involving narrative.

Still, there’s a definite ending for the reader, even if the police have a number of unanswered questions. This is something I have previously liked about James’ books: they have proper endings, with no cliffhangers to force you to buy the next installment in the series (though obviously the missing wife is designed to build some intrigue). James trusts his readers will have enjoyed his story enough to want to read the next book anyway. And he’s right.

I shall continue to follow the investigations of Roy Grace, though I am slightly perplexed by a character so beholden to his memory of his missing wife that he cannot throw out her toothbrush or sell her car, but can go on dates with other women, and look forward to reading the rest of the ‘Dead’ series. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Jun 25, 2016 |
A good introduction to the series and to Roy Grace, the lead protagonist. It takes a while to really get going but this is because the author is giving you the background and flavour of the lead character. Like all lead characters he has an intriguing back story and this affects him as an individual leading his life. During the story there are occasions where he uses a medium which makes it stand out from many other books. I will definitely read on in the series but not yet up with my favourite characters - Rebus and Banks. Will be interesting to see how it develops.
Warning : if you are claustrophobic this may not be the book for you! ( )
  Andrew-theQM | Jun 20, 2016 |
Michael Harrison is a soon-to-be groom who is buried alive by his joker friends as a gag. A terrible road accident leads the reader to an assumption of where this thriller is headed. The reader will soon find out that he it completely wrong.

James creates distinctive players in this game of who is good and who has hidden motives. This is a pure definition of page turner.

The reader will imagine watching this on the screen with appropriate scary music and moments of great shock and surprise.

My only quibble with James is the insertion of a psychic late in the story that detracts from a nearly perfect conclusion. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
From Amazon:

If there is one place Michael Harrison never expected to die, it's in his own grave. When Michael Harrison's four best friends leave him buried alive on the night of his bachelor party, it seems like the perfect payback for his own bachelor party pranks. But moments later the four are killed in a car crash, and suddenly their harmless joke is no laughing matter. With only three days to the wedding, Detective Superintendent Grace―a man haunted by the shadow of his own missing wife―is contacted by Michael's beautiful, distraught fiancee, Ashley Harper. Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know Michael Harrison's whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot to gain―more than anyone realizes. For one man's disaster is another man's fortune. Dead simple.

My Thoughts:

This first book in the Roy Grace series is a real thriller that starts off as a stag night stunt gone horribly wrong...and turns out to be far from what the reader expects. Roy Grace is one fine lead character...flawed but determined....intelligent but superstitious...he is one to be reckoned with. Peter James creates distinctive players in this game some with good intentions and some who have hidden motives. Just when you think you know where the story is going... James adds another twist. You'll need a seat belt:) ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
A plot that twists and turns, a dramatic beginning, a likeable detective in Roy Grace and a cleverly-drawn setting. Brighton is full of potential for a crime writer looking for a setting and it is clear Peter James knows and loves the Sussex seaside city. This is a page-turner with clever ideas and a couple of twists I didn’t see coming.
The story opens with a stag night which does not go to plan, a missing groom, a car crash, an absent best man and a frantic bride. As the horrible realities of the situation become clear, with no witnesses and no clues, the police struggle to find the missing groom before the wedding on Saturday. But a few things do not ring true and that, coupled with Detective Superintendent Roy Grace’s controversial use of a medium, bring fresh, if confusing, clues.
Peter James has created an authentic police community which feels real from page one, this is not the first in a series where the first novel is about setting the scene and the context. James hits the ground running with a believable detective. Roy Grace is a maverick, and I like him. James spends a day a week with the Sussex Police Force and this experience is evident on every page without shouting ‘research’.
I’ve found a new favourite crime writer.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Apr 13, 2016 |
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So far, apart from a couple of hitches, Plan A was working out fine.
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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:29 -0400)

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After a stag night, the groom-to-be goes missing and four of his friends are dead. Detective Superintendent Grace is contacted by the missing man's fiancee, and discovers that the one man who ought to know his whereabouts is saying nothing - but he has more to gain out of the tragedy than anyone realizes.… (more)

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