Fresh Meat: Want You Dead by Peter James

Want You Dead by Peter James, a Roy Grace novelWant You Dead by Peter James is the 10th police procedural featuring UK Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, this time pursuing a violent stalker who wants to set fire to everything and everyone his ex-girlfriend still cares for (available November 18, 2014).

The tenth installment in this wildly popular British series, following the exploits of Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, delves into the twisted psyche of a narcissistic firebug. Bryce Laurent stalks and terrorizes his ex-girlfriend, Red Westwood, using all the tools of modern technology he can get his hands on. Want You Dead provides us with a chilling portrait of a sadistic killer, showing us his point of view from the very beginning in passages such as these:

Some things were meant to be. Like he and Red had been meant to be. Taking the binoculars from his eyes, he rocked his head from side to side, fury twisting inside him. Okay, so some bad stuff had got in the way of their relationship, but that was all history now — it was too far gone.

He watched her cute lips as she took another sip of her wine. Lips he had kissed so tenderly, so passionately. […] Lips that had kissed every part of his body. The thought of those lips kissing another man was too much to bear. They were his lips. He possessed then. The thought of another man touching the soft skin of her body, holding her naked, entering her, was like an endless bolus of cold water surging through him. The thought of her eyes meeting another man's just as she climaxed made him shake with helpless rage.

But not so helpless any more. Now he had a plan.

If I can't have you, no one will.

As his terrible plans unfold, we also follow along from the points of view of his victim, Red, and the police department under the supervision of DS Grace. Red is a complex heroine determined to live life on her own terms, refusing to surrender her freedom to Bryce's overt threats, even when it seems foolish not to budge. She's a fighter, and I appreciated the portrait Peter James gave us of her family life and her struggle to make something of herself.

But more so than Red's character development, I really enjoyed the way the author depicts the workings of the Brighton police and their auxiliary departments. It's clear that he really knows his stuff from all the technical aspects embedded seamlessly into the narrative. Passages like this, describing the grief felt by the whole department when one of their own falls victim to Bryce's evil schemes, really impress with their sympathetic rendering of a team of dedicated professionals:

Roy Grace stood up, walked over to him, and put his arm around him. “She did something very brave […]” he said. “What’s happened is terrible and there are no words to describe how we are all feeling — and especially how you must be feeling. She did something that any of us might have to do. That’s why we are police officers, and not clerks sitting behind desks, spending our lives pushing paper around, living in a sterile cocoon of sodding health and safety. Every time we go out, we potentially face a life-threatening situation. I would hope that in the same situation that [she] found herself in, any of us would have the courage to do the same thing, to take that same risk she did […] The best way we can honour [her] is to ensure she did not die in vain — and that means catching this bastard before he can put any more lives at risk.”

Loyal followers of the series will also be pleased to read more of Cleo and Noah, DS Grace's fiancée and son, respectively. However, I suspect that the really juicy revelation here is the truth, finally, behind the disappearance of his first wife, Sandy. Throw in some office politics, and you have another crowd-pleasing installment, with promises of further complications for DS Grace to come. With all this, it's easy to see why this series has such a loyal following, though the book itself works as a standalone novel quite well. Want You Dead is a thrilling page-turner from start to finish, accessible to new readers, but satisfying to those already familiar with its world.

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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