The one thing that worried him-slightly-was how easy he had found it to lie. To now believe completely in his innocence.
One warning: Need You Dead is part of a series of books starring Superintendent Roy Grace. In fact it’s number thirteen in the series. There are a couple of plot threads from previous books in the series and which are clearly intended to keep developing in future books. So that’s that. But Need You Dead works quite well as an independent book on its own, and even someone new to the series, (such as myself) can still follow along and enjoy the ride.
The novel begins with hairdresser Lorna Belling trapped in a abusive marriage discovering painful truths about her lover. Within a week’s time, Lorna will be found dead in a little flat in Brighton and it will seem like an open and shut case with an obvious suspect. But Grace’s instincts tell him something is off about the whole thing and of course he’s right. Besides the vexing nature of the case where new suspects quickly start appearing out of the woodwork, Grace has personal issues to deal with as well. His first wife who went missing just committed suicide in Hamburg and shockingly left him the care of their ten year old son Bruno who Grace never even knew existed. Grace has to bury his first wife and bring the troubled, deeply introverted Bruno home to meet his new family including his present wife Cleo and their infant son Noah. The case takes many twists and turns and Lorna’s is not the only blood spilled along the way.
The paperback edition may be over 400 pages but the narrative moves along briskly and you find yourself rushing through to read it as quickly as possible, impatient to see what happens next. What elevates and differentiates Need You Dead from most such mysteries is that it spends as much time in the head of Lorna’s unnamed killer as it does with its main detective-and that the killer here is surprisingly sympathetic. He never meant to hurt Lorna much less kill her, but he did and now behaves like a caged rat. His growing desperation to save himself leads him inevitably down a very dark and dirty road…yet we can never entirely distance ourselves from him and rather hoping he’ll get away. It’s a crafty trick leaving the reader feeling almost complicit in its killer’s crimes, and demonstrates why Peter James won the Crime Writer’s Association Diamond Dagger Award in 2016.
Need You Dead