Review: Need You Dead by Peter James

Set in Brighton and Sussex, England, Need You Dead by Peter James is the 13th book in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series (available June 6, 2017). 

When Roy Grace had first joined the Major Crimes Branch, he had made a pledge to himself. He was going to raise that bar from eighty-five percent of homicides solved to as close as possible to 100%.

In his view, every killer made one mistake. Somewhere.

You just had to find it.

The central case in Need You Dead is the murder of the complicated and crossed-in-love Lorna Belling. A hairdresser by trade—and physically abused by her husband—Lorna was hoping love with another man would help her escape her situation. But a chance meeting destroys her dream, and now Lorna’s dead. Many might think that the obvious suspect is her abusive husband. But what looks obvious to the police, doesn’t look so obvious to us, the reader. So who killed Lorna? 

It’s up to DS Roy Grace to discover the truth, but his life has even gotten more complicated than when we left him in the last book, Love You Dead. When the novel begins, Roy has just learned that he’s the father of Bruno, a ten-year-old boy who lives in Germany. The boy’s mother committed suicide shortly after getting hit by a taxi and leaves a note to make sure Bruno and his father are reunited. Now, Roy is going to get Bruno and to bring him back to England to live with him and his new wife. It’s a lot for anyone to handle—with or without a tricky murder investigation. 

One of the reasons that I love these novels is the stories of DC Grace’s life and loves and how they entwine with the murder cases. Each book presents new challenges for DS Roy Grace. Watching his relationship with Bruno develop as he learns more about his son takes the book to another level. 

His relationships at work are just as interesting as his personal ones. I also love his commitment to the job and how he goes about solving the cases. 

Guy Batchelor continued his assessment of the crime scene, reminded all the time of Roy Grace’s words.

Assume nothing. Believe no one. Check everything.

Clear the ground under your feet.

Every contact leaves a trace.

Think the unthinkable.

The personal stories juxtaposed with the quest for Lorna’s killer create a fresh approach to this thriller with more than a dash of police procedural thrown in. It’s fun to follow along to see if you can solve the mystery before Roy can. There are handy maps at the beginning of the book that are full of details to help you follow along as events unfold. But it’s not easy to figure out who did it. 

If you like fast-paced, character-driven stories with a deep sense of place, then you’ll love the Roy Grace novels. You can jump right into the Roy Grace series with Need You Dead, but you may want to go back to the first one, Dead Simple, to savor every book. 

Note: If you’d like to see Peter James in person, you’ll be able to find him at Thrillerfest 2017, held in New York City on July 11-15. It’s a great conference.  


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Deborah Lacy’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly Magazine, the 2016 Bouchercon Anthology: Blood on the Bayou, and she has a story coming up in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She also runs the Mystery Playground blog


  1. Annie Romero

    The plot here sounds good, I like a common sense approach to crime solving!! I have been reading The Butterflies by Kim Waldron, is her site for info. Her plot is fantastic, it’s that fine line between murder being absolutely wrong and not as wrong!

  2. Deborah Lacy

    Annie – It is a great book. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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