Not Dead Yet (Det. Superintendent Roy Grace)
by Peter James
Cover Artist: Photographs: Daniela Lombard / Arcangel Images;
Girl by Sami Sarkis / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312642846
Date: 27 November 2012 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
"Not dead yet," are the words I mutter each morning when I scrutinize my haggard face in the bathroom mirror. Peter James and his superb mystery novels give me a reason for living. He is the best mystery author in the world and I am his number one fan. I own autographed copies of all his hardback and paperback novels. His photographs are framed and displayed on every wall in my apartment. I have also framed and displayed copies of every newspaper and magazine article written on him. Having nearly bankrupted myself from buying all his memorabilia on eBay, I am a true Peter James fan. I am what psychiatrists call an obsessive fan. I can truly relate to the fan in Peter James's chilling thriller, Not Dead Yet, who wants to kill Gaia Lafayette who snubbed her. Peter James snubbed my invitation to dinner.
I am only joking. I am a devoted fan of Peter James but not an obsessive one. However, if he continues writing best-sellers like Not Dead Yet, he will probably obtain one or two obsessive fans, if he already hasn't. First, let me say that Not Dead Yet reminded me of his previous best-seller, Dead Man's Grip, which also involved a young attractive woman and her child in peril. However, in the case of Not Dead Yet, I couldn't sympathize with the wealthy lead character, Gaia Lafayette, because she was a spoiled, amoral, crass performer--Hollywood's typical starlet. I found myself not caring whether she lived or died; unfortunately the lives of innocent bystanders were at stake. I found myself agreeing with her obsessive fan who felt that other, more talented actresses should have obtained the coveted role of Maria Fitzherbert instead of Gaia. This can be said in any business. It's not what you know that gets you to the top. It's who you know ... and how you know them.
As usual, I found myself taking notes while reading Not Dead Yet. There are numerous characters and multiple subplots that initially appear separate but merge together during the course of the plot like strands in a beautifully woven spider web. The most gruesome case belonging to DS Roy Grace, and one of the first ones to which the reader is introduced, involves the torso of an unknown male found buried in the floor of a chicken coop at The Stonery, a chicken farm. Peter James uses extremely interesting police and medical procedures to trace the torso to its rightful owner. Meanwhile, a recently paroled mobster, slimy, effeminate Amis Morris Smallbone, wants revenge against Grace for sending him to prison for twelve years. A dying screenwriter with nothing to lose, Drayton Wheeler, wants revenge against Larry Brooker and Maxim Brody, the producers of The King's Lover; he claims they stole his script. To complicate matters, the reader soon learns that Grace's missing wife, Sandy Grace, is not dead yet.
Not Dead Yet is long, but fast-paced; I finished reading it in only a few days. Each of its 127 chapters is concisely written; most end with a cliffhanger that propels the reader forward. Like his previous novels, it reads like non-fiction. In his Acknowledgements, James thanks a million people who helped him. Believe me when I say, if James writes about something, it either happened or could happen. In his latest novel, James takes the reader on a tour of the seaside resort of Brighton, England. The reader spends a great deal of time around the Royal Pavilion, learning about its turbulent history as one of Britain's greatest historical landmarks. The reader will also learn a great deal about the complexities involved in the creation of a motion picture, from its financing to the hiring of extras to its producers dealing with egotistical actors who drink too much, such as leading man Judd Halpern.
Not Dead Yet is highly recommended for all mystery fans, especially mysteries involving a beautiful woman in peril. While reading this novel, I was reminded of several classic horror films involving obsessive fans. The Fan (1981) stars Lauren Bacall as a gracefully fading, middle-aged actress, Sally Ross, who is dangerously pursued by a much younger, love-struck man, Douglas Breen (Michael Biehn). Misery (1990) stars James Caan as a best-selling author, Paul Sheldon, who is abducted and tortured by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). Both Sally and Paul appear to be likeable characters. We feel their pain. Gaia Lafayette, however, is not a likeable character. She is made comparable to Madonna and her numerous clones. If Gaia had been more congenial like Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet or Sandra Bullock, I would have enjoyed the novel more. Perhaps I wouldn't have found myself rooting for the obsessive fan.