It was a strange experience, as I sat in my favourite chair, reading Peter James’s Not Dead Yet. It was being promoted as a thriller. I adore a good whodunit, just as any other person. I presumed it would be a fun read, fast and clever.
The book deals with stalkers and is quite unlike any other police investigation work that I have read. It is more a collection of cases in the work life of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. The plot moves from film stars to crazed former wives, all in a day’s effort. The writing is full of complex terminology that might enthuse a fan but for a first-time reader is a bit confusing.
I am not much a fan of abbreviations. I firmly believe if you can talk straight, then do that; save the jargon for those who believe incomprehensible capital letters is the best form of communication. We have a few of those around but, as you might have guessed, I usually give them a wide berth. To paraphrase from Calvin and Hobbes, language should not be an impediment to understanding.
I think James desperately needs to catch up on the young boy and his stuffed tiger. The eloquence of the strip would definitely help make following Grace’s investigations easier.
So there was a bit of a drop in the fun level there. But it was becoming a bit of a fast read, as I started speed-reading parts with just too much jargon for me to cope. That leaves us with the “clever” bit.
Well, the numerous cases are interesting but then you have a whole strange element being added in with Grace suddenly cast as a policeman gaining the attention of a film star because of his “Paul Newman eyes”. Huh?
Suddenly the eyes become a recurring theme with the star dropping hints in his direction. Completely unnecessary in what is necessarily more of a police-case book. Why did the author have to toss that in?
The only answer I could come up with was that he was setting the plot up for his next book, as a nasty former wife is back and stalking him. She was the first to describe his eyes in a similar manner, when they were together. I guess keeping a series going is necessary but such obvious tactics feel a bit disrespectful of the reader’s intelligence. Perhaps a quick chat with Ruth Rendell and P.D. James might help the author in more subtle progressions.
Having said that, Grace is not uninteresting as an investigating officer, although he does spend more time doing paperwork than is necessary in a work of fiction. He is clever and does believe in his battle against evil. He is a career policeman who likes pursuing the bad boys in a bid to clean up society.
The book is long, but not unpleasant. It is, though, not my kind of book. I’m sure it will appeal to others who are keen to learn more about police procedures. There are villains, and cases do get solved. There is also a dash of romance between Grace and a colleague from the forensic sciences. But, if I am asked to read another Grace book, I would definitely ask — is it necessary?