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==Synopsis of the book:==
It is practical joker Michael Harrison's stag night. He is marrying the beautiful Ashley Harper in just three days time After a few beers with his three friends they decide revenge for the tricks he played on them on their stag nights is in order. They put him in a coffin in the ground with just a bottle of whisky, a torch and a walkie talky for company. The lid is screwed down and his friends go off to another pub, planning to leave him for a couple of hours and then pull him out.
However, on the way to the next pub the transit van the boys are in is involved in a horrific crash with another vehicle and they are killed. Leaving no-one knowing what has happened to Michael except a man with learning difficulties who found the walkie talkie and he wants to keep his new friend a secret. After a day with no news from Michael Ashley reports him missing, bringing in Detective Superintendent Grace and his team. Who need to establish if he is missing or if he has simply done a runner. The team are up against it to try and find him before his wedding day.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
Overall I enjoyed this well thought out crime thriller. I particularly enjoyed the race against time the Police faced to find Michael and the clever and unexpected twists in the story the author employed. For me this was an easy read and I found it very easy to get into and once there I enjoyed the story throughout. If I have to be hypa critical I would say it was not as good as the previous one I read from Peter James 'Dead like you' but regardless it was a very good piece of fiction.
This is the second book I have read from Peter James. Both have been in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. These account now for eight out twenty seven books he has written. Peter James is an English author who lives in Lewes near Brighton and in the Grace series of stories he writes about are set around Brighton. I think it always helps if a writer writes about a place he is familiar with and the quality certainly comes through in his writing.
Having really loved my first experience in the Grace series I was keen to read the début story in the series to see how it all began. This one was written in 2005 and because in the later novels there is a real mystery involving Grace in the disappearance of his wife Sandy. So I was looking to read the first in the series to not only see where the Grace story starts but also to try and get some clues as to why she disappeared. Sadly I did not learn too much about this as in this the first in the series she has already been missing for several years and he is still trying to move on from this traumatic experience. For me this was a disappointing and I still await as Grace does what happened to her and why.
So in many ways I had decided I wanted to read the first novel in the series before I knew anything about it. However I did still check out the summary of the story before I purchased it. It told about this harmless stag night prank that went horribly wrong when Michael's friends are killed in a crash. It sounded interesting and I liked the idea of Grace and his team having to find this missing man. Although I must admit it was shorter than I would have liked and I feel it could have involved more detail without giving too much of the story away. It did at least wet my appetite as it sounded like it was full of suspense.
The action in the story started in the first few pages with Micheal being buried almost straight away. Initially I was worried because the author gave little detail of Michael's friend from the stag night and I could not remember anything about each one. Luckily for me but very unluckily for them they all died very quickly and so in terms of the story it was not important. Although I was also surprised that Michael's business partner Mark and his best man for the wedding did not go on his stag night having be delayed by fog in Leeds and so missing the evening.
I really enjoyed the way the story started to develop with the Police unsure if the groom to be was missing or if he had chosen to disappear. The reader knew he was stuck in the coffin but how he could be found I really wondered. I liked his interaction with Davey the young man with learning difficulties and how Michael tried to get him to help him. I enjoyed their relationship and the bond they developed along the way and I was surprised when this ended, but it was one of those good and unexpected twists the story was to taken.
The story had a good feel to it. Yes it would have been good if there were more suspects within this mystery, but the author created a sense of mystery around all of them. As it was clear they all had their own secrets and things they did not want to share with the Police. What I particularly liked was learning more about Grace's private life. Not because it is exceptional but because it appears quite normal and I liked the insecurities and doubts he had about a new relationship. It was almost like he was using his demanding Police career as a shield to protect him from his personal life.
The story really did not unfold like I expected it to, but that was a good thing as for me variety is good. I always enjoyed the well described scenes and the interesting characters James created. And while I found it an easy book to read and it truth it took me less than three days to complete it was still full of detailed descriptions without being overly flowery. I loved the increasing suspense as the story unfolded and the way I did not know what the resolution would be to the story.
With the concluding chapter being very fast paced and full of excitement. Although I did feel it all ended a little too quickly. For me it could have done with an epilogue as I would liked to know what happened to the characters that won't feature in the next story. That apart it was a good ending and one that befitted a good and well thought out story.
Roy Grace is clearly the lead character in this series of stories. I find him a likeable down to earth character. For me he is great because he makes mistakes and has more than an interest in the Occult. Which given his missing Wife, Sandy maybe understandable but leaves him open to difficult questions and ridicule buy his bosses and the Media. And while I always enjoy the way he runs and manages his investigations it is his personal life that always impresses me and interests me as I have found I want to know what happened and why to Sandy as well. As it is in my experience very unusual for a mystery to the star of the series personal life as well as in each story.
The stories length was about right to tell a very enjoyable story. One feature however that both this book and the previous one had that I do not particularly like is the length of the chapters. I do not like massive chapters but I have also found I do not like very short ones either. For me this story had too many, there were 90 in all and that made it one every six pages roughly. And while there was enough detail I would have liked more focus within them as the scenes changed in many before I had a chance to catch my breath.
Yes I would recommend this as a good introduction to the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. I enjoyed the clever and twisting story that was full of mystery and suspense. For me Grace is a very good lead character and I find him easy to like and relate too. I certainly will be looking to read another in this excellent series in the next few weeks.
Price: 5.19 New at Amazon
Publisher: Pan Books
Year first Published: 2005
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo
© CPTDANIELS January 2013
The first of crime writer Peter James' Roy Grace novels, Dead Simple is a riveting, rocketing thriller that tells its own engrossing, self-contained story and also sets the stage for the longer story arcs of the franchise to come. DS Roy Grace is a fairly prototypical tainted hero for the genre; a gruff hard-drinker with a host of his own demons and a rather brillaint flair for unravelling fiendish cases. No great marks for originality, then - but when it's done this well, it doesn't matter all that much.
The crime here centres around a stag-night prank gone wrong. The stag in question is swimmingly drunk when he's thrown into a coffin and buried - which seems a bit extreme, but still ... his friends intend to come and haul him out when he's had a couple of hours underground, but things take a turn for the worse when all four are found dead. Now the problem is two-fold; who killed the men, and where on earth is the man in the coffin buried, seeing as the only people who know are on their way to the mortuary?
It's a great - if slightly far-fetched - set-up, and although the characters tick all the usual boxes, they work, and they keep you guessing.
The Roy Grace novels are set in and around Brighton, and the author's knowledge of the city shines through - he also has a neat touch for creating atmosphere, and there's a real sense of place here. All in all, this manages to stay just the right side of formulaic, throwing in enough twists and suprises, and a decent pay-off to boot. Best of all, there are another seven books following this one - so if you liked it, you're in for a treat.
The first, and most off-putting, thing to happen in this book is that on a stag night prank that goes horribly wrong, the groom-to-be gets put into a coffin by his mates, who then screw the lid down and put it into an actual grave and leave him there. Implausible, possibly, but it get worse. The four friends then die in a terrible car crash, and no one has any idea where the groom is or what's happened to him.
So, the first thing to say is that this awful scenario kept me turning the pages of the first half of the book, simply because every time I read the chapters that were written from Michael's (the groom's) perspective, I developed a nasty sense of claustrophobia and found myself feeling desperate for him to somehow get out. And don't worry, I haven't given the game away- the only reason I say this kept me gripped only throughout the first half of the book is that the author stepped the pace up a gear in the second half, so that kept me intrigued instead. Whether he manages to escape or not is not something I'm going to reveal.
The premise of the plot is really rather good, and I was certainly intrigued on reading the first chapter or two. Plus, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, the main character, is an eminently likeable character, and one it's relatively easy to identify with.
One thing it is worth commenting on here is the amount of detail Peter James goes into about...well...about everything, actually. Sometimes that's a very good thing- it adds a definite sense of authenticity when James describes, for example, the difficulties of getting a search warrant for a suspect's house, or what the 'major incident' room at CID HQ looks like. The down side is that there is sometimes too much detail, at the expense of the fast pace required of this genre. I think part of the reason for this is that Peter James is very excited to be setting the story in his own place of residence, Brighton. I get the feeling he went to many of the places mentioned in the story, in order to do his research and make the book authentic, and he therefore feels a need to include what he discovered. So, for example, we end up with a description of the route Roy Grace takes from the entrance of CID HQ to the major incident room, which takes in all the twists and turns, and the way the place smells to him as he strides along the corridors.
I have to confess, the thing that attracted me to this book in the first place was the fact that it's set in Brighton, where I lived for a year and really enjoyed it, so it was something of an exciting novelty to read about places I'd actually been to and be able to picture them clearly in my head. Unfortunately though, the writing is such that despite the familiar setting, it feels as though it's set in some unknown part of the USA. It's hard to place exactly what it is that James does to give the story a distinctly American flavour, rather than the expected, if not intended, British one. He doesn't use an awful lot of Americanisms. Perhaps it's the style itself- the staccato sentences where the subject is only mentioned once every three or four sentences. In any case, I found this a bit off-putting, since the language didn't really suit the setting, but if you prefer American crime thrillers to British ones then you might think this is a point in its favour.
I was also not so keen on the structure of the story, since it's divided up into relatively short chapters, but each chapter is told from a different perspective, and there are about 5 in all. This meant that by the time I'd got a couple of pages into each chapter and had just become interested in a particular viewpoint, it would suddenly switch and I'd have to start again. I think this contributes to the lack of pace, though it did improve about midway in, where the perspective remained increasingly with Grace.
Something I was very impressed with was the car chase Peter James describes. It was absolutely gripping, and when I'd reached its conclusion I was surprised by how clearly I'd been able to visualise it and just how interested I'd been by it. It's very unusual for a car chase to work on paper, rather than on screen, and I admire him for giving that a go, and for pulling it off successfully.
So, although I wouldn't say this is one of the best thrillers I've ever read, I enjoyed it enough to want to read more in the series, and that's a good enough recommendation for giving the first one a try.
Peter James and his creation Detective Sergeant Roy Grace are a series that I came to rather late and thanks to a charity shop is one I would have regretted missing. Though technically I wouldn't have missed it if I didn't know about it, but you know what I mean!
DS Grace and his sidekick Glenn Branson are detectives of the glamorous seaside town of Brighton, though that picture is well and truly destroyed by the amount of gruesome murders they have! Honestly, I certainly wont be going there for my holidays!
This particular tale is of a stag night gone horribly wrong. Michael Harrison is the ringleader of a group of friends who have arranged some fantastic stag night 'pranks' including one finding himself on the train to Edinburgh, and one who awakens to find himself stark naked attached to the Clifton Suspension Bridge wearing nothing but a large dildo! (Can I just point out as a Bristol, please dont be tempted to try this as there are CCTV cameras covering the whole area!)
Except this time its Michaels nuptials to the lovely Ashley fast approaching and the friends, in particular Mark Warren, his absolutely best buddy have to come up with one hell of a stunt as the absolute act of revenge.
So what the best way to get it? Borrow a coffin from Rob's place of work, get him absolutely bladdered and bury him of course. Planning to dig him up a few hours later, well if you're not all killed in a car crash driving away from the scene of course...........
At least all except Mark whose flight was delayed and couldn't join them. Of course Mark will rush back and rescue his hapless friend, wont he?. Except Mark now has a motive for doing no such thing and it comes in the form of the exquisite and not so innocent blushing bride Ashley. And Ashley doesn't seem that eager to get him back either, and poor Michael is stuck there, 6ft under with nothing more than a bottle of whisky, a dying mobile phone, a walkie talkie the other one of which has been picked up by a stranger and the predictable water rising up through the coffin.
Of course the police just think they are looking for a missing person, but the body toll is rising and is Michael going to be added to the list?
This is a page turner, there's no doubt about it, the development of the characters continues, Roy Grace and his issues with his wife Sandy who has been missing for 7 years, and pre-occupation with the supernatural, Glenn Branson with the conflict between work and family, Mark struggling with the knowledge of what he's done. And the most interesting of all Ashley, or Alexandra or Anne or..........
The inevitable twist happens two-thirds of the way through the book, and it's a real page stopper. Yep a page stopper not a turner. It just doesn't make sense...Yet! But work through it, don't give up the book just now and it'll all come together, honestly!
It's a great book, full of twists and turns, good guys, bad guys, cheers and hurrahs!
As someone who reads 100's of crime books every year the concept of this book is innovative and compelling. Peter James' DS Roy Grace is overshadowed by the likes of Rebus, Dalziel & Pascoe, etc and deserves to be up there with the likes of them.
One day we're going to be watching this book adapted for the TV, you wait and see!
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When a stag night trick turns tragic the outcome is muddy: four dead bodies, one missing groom, and the only man still standing seems to not only have been missing from events but minus any information about it all. Something is just not quite right. Can Detective Superintendent Roy Grace - still not over the mysterious disappearance of his own wife - make this situation turn out more happily for the bride to be? It depends on whether her fiancé's done a runner or been left stranded by his mates - and if so, is time running out for him somewhere?
Dead Simple opens with the stag night prank in full swing, showing the details and the devastating accident that follows. I must confess, although absolutely gripped by these opening pages, I also found them a bit dark and uncheery, and had to put the book down for the night in favour of something lighter - I can only take so much murkiness before trying to sleep! Hardened fans of the thriller genre probably wouldn't bat an eyelid, but what can I say - I'm still a soft newbie! ;)
Unfortunately, when the tone lightens up a little, I also found myself losing a lot of interest in the story. Rather than staying with the attention-grabbing opening situation, the narrative shifts to focus on the new lead character in Peter James' work: the police detective, Roy Grace. This seems to be the norm for crime fiction, but I must confess I'm never that interested in the faces behind the 'good guys' that I think they should be the centre of the story and usually then a series. Still, Grace is not without his interesting points: several years ago his wife vanished without a trace, and still no one has a clue what happened to her. This seems to have kicked off an interest in the supernatural for the detective, although his superiors aren't keen on his use of mediums and other spiritual shenanigans when cracking a crime hits a sticky point. Throw in the fact that he's about to turn 40 and not happy about it, and a quest to find a new girlfriend, and we have - well, a character I found more than a little forced, to be honest. As I said, I'm not that bothered about the lives of the policemen behind the scenes - I'm here to read about crime! The constant referrals to one or more of Grace's 'quirky' characteristics soon bored me.
Of course, without all of that it would have been a much shorter book. At several points I was wondering how on earth there could still be so many pages left before the mystery was solved - presumably - at the end. We as the reader have what seems to be all the information pretty soon on into the story, meaning the middle section for me did feel very padded out and full of unnecessary side trips to Grace's love life, or details about what exactly he buys from the office vending machine. No, I'm not joking on that one! Serious slap on the wrist for this book for constant product placement - I couldn't believe how many references there were to specific chocolate bars or other brand names. And it's not just commercial: there are frequent mentions of current events or celebrities, which - while being more or less okay just five years on from publishing - will date this book very quickly. It also felt so forced, as if the author was trying to drag you into believing this is all real, part of our own world. I find the opposite tends to happen: the more you shout about Diet Coke, the more I'm reminded this is fiction.
Right, with the whining out of the way, I should really confess that after all those bumps along the read, I did end up gobbling down the last half of this book in just a few sessions. Because - thankfully! - it does all pick up pace and introduces layers of intrigue I for one did not see coming.
The later plot threads - nope, not even going to drop you any hints! - were introduced very well, I thought. Of course, a well-seasoned reader in the genre might not find the twists so unpredictable, but I rather enjoyed the way something you knew wasn't quite right turned out to be... oh, THAT?! Really? Wow! Perhaps one, maybe two, stretched credulity more than a little, but for the main part there felt to be a fairly logical path into a more twisted narrative than I'd been expecting.
Overall then I'm going to offer a middling 3 stars. I did enjoy the read and was kept pretty gripped especially through the finale. I make allowances for the fact that the thriller genre is not my main choice, but as a bit of a change in my reading matter I do enjoy them - and this one seemed at least average compared to my previous forays. Will I read more Peter James books? Hmm, maybe, but I can't say I'm rushing to the next one.
Paperback: 457 pages (Pan 2005)
First published in 2005
I was always a hearts and flowers kind of a reader. I liked girly books and then I heard this reviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live and I thought I'd give it ago. It changed me as a reader forever.
This book is about a prank gone wrong, a stag is left in a dangerous situation following his stag do when his friends are killed in a car accident. Leaving a distraught fiancee with no idea of her future husbands wearabouts detective Roy Grace sets about following what small clues he has to discover what has happened.
Roy Grace has a number of personal demons which he is battling against throughout and these demons are part of what makes you want to read on.
I hesistate to say too much for fear of spoiling the book. I was absolutely gripped by this book and I became a crime fan instantly. SInce this book there has beena furthur 4 books and all are equally as good. I really enjoyed this book particularly though and I found that there were a number of twists and turns which stopped me putting the book down. I was up until 4am one night reading it and I hadn't even realised!! I definitely recommend this book and think you'll be gripped
It was meant to be a harmless stag night prank. A few hours later four of his best friends are dead, and Michael Harrison has disappeared. 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 ...'James has got the gift for turning mind-stretching subjects into novels that are irresistibly readable as well as utterly believable' - Robert Goddard. 'A brilliant idea, superbly crafted. A terrific page-turner' - James Herbert 'A page-turner of a book with some terrifying twists ...a very satisfying read' - George Baker, Inspector Wexford.