29 Years


Monday, July 28, 2014
By Robin Shukla

This week we review runaway bestseller, Want You Dead, written by well-known British novelist, Peter James. The action centres around the town of his birth, Brighton. James has written 25 novels, 10 of them featuring the very plausible Detective Inspector Roy Grace who, at the end of this novel, is all set to become Detective Chief Superintendent! As a member of society, the much awarded author supports a lot of local and international foundations and charities and is chairman of the Brighton and Hove Drugs Commission.

The tenth bestseller in the Detective Inspector Roy Grace series is a very gripping story about what can go horribly wrong when you dump someone who you discover has been the wrong man all along.

It also puts up a red warning marker for those lonely women who, on the rebound, think the best way around heartbreak is to recruit someone hot via a dating agency. When you tart up your own profile with a vengeance in a bid to get back at life, you may well end up signaling the wrong kind of person, leading to situations that are only the stuff of nightmares.

This is what Red Westwood, a sales exec with a real estate agent had gone and put on an online dating agency after she moved out of a relationship: Single girl, 29, redhead and smouldering, love life that’s crashed and burned. Seeks new flame to rekindle her fire. Fun, friendship and – who knows – maybe more?

The book starts with Karl Murphy, widowed doctor and father of two young kids, just finishing a good round of golf, and getting set to meet Red, who he has recently started dating. While driving in his Audi, he is rendered unconscious by someone who had been hiding under the dog rug in the back seat and now clamps his mouth and nose with a chloroform soaked cloth.

His abductor is Bryce Laurent, someone Red dumped not long ago after her mother discovered that he was not the airline pilot he said he was. After a series of violent showdowns, the police are called in and Bryce is evicted from her flat and supposedly, her life. A terrified Red is even offered a new place to relocate to. But Bryce, handsome and rich, if not a pilot, has been much much more – he has worked with the army sappers defusing explosives, with the fire brigade putting out fires, has his own licensed fireworks manufacturing unit, has worked with a security agency installing systems which includes locking mechanisms and surveillance apparatus, apart from being a close magician of great skill.

All these are unique combinations for an obsessed man out for revenge against a woman he wants no one else to have. Those who get close to her must die. Karl Murphy is trussed up and made to write a suicide note before being consigned to a horrible death after being doused with petrol.

Though initial investigations point to suicide, Roy has doubts. Enquiries into the doctor’s social life lead to Red, who has to be told about the tragedy. Her sorrow soon turns to fear after she senses he is probably somewhere around and is watching her.

And Bryce, as learned before, is more than watching her. Thanks to vast experience at other jobs, he has entered into her highly secured home, tapped her phone, bugged her home, installed tiny cameras all over the place, hacked into her laptop and even her email account so that he can watch, eavesdrop and monitor her whole life.

Then the fires start – a store she frequents sees an explosion of sorts. Blinded and choked by the smoke, she is helped to get out by an unknown person, only to discover the ring she had returned to Bryce is back on her finger! Then her favourite restaurant where she and Bryce visited goes up in flames, as does her Volkswagon Beetle while she is driving to her mother’s house.

Terror comes close when Red’s parents are marked as targets to be blown up on their yacht, with the police and other forces, racing against time, managing to evacuate them only to discover that their home, with all its childhood memories, is getting burned to ashes. A beautiful mansion where Red has booked her dream home, likewise, burns to the ground, killing Roy’s female colleague who had rushed there to rescue a child and a dog.

When Roy and his team of Brighton police officers get on to tracking Bryce, he manages to frame a colleague from the fire brigade in a bid to deflect investigations. To thwart fire-fighting efforts, he even makes hoax calls regarding other fires elsewhere in order to divert the tenders in other directions altogether.

There is spectacular detection work by Roy and his team, and those familiar with the series will know the big built dependable non-white colleague and best pal, Glenn Branson who plays a very comforting role to a terrified Red in this novel. Then there is Norman Potting with his unwelcome asides and one-liners. Other familiar faces in this book are Cleo, who is all set to wed Roy. There is their baby Noah. Also Chief Constable Tom Martinson. Not to forget the Roy’s missing wife, Sandy, to reads about the wedding plans and decides to fly in from Germany, hoping to stop the couple from entering into holy matrimony. The scene of her in church has its own tense moments.

Bryce, as we learn, has been sexually abused as a child by his own alcoholic of a mother, and he rids himself of his situation by torching her one day, when he all of 16. He just directs a jet of hairspray into his mother's face, watching as her burning cigarette sets off a conflagration that consumes her and burns the house down. He doesn't have to look back from then on, as the money he inherits is stupendous.

He flits from one job to another, acquiring skills which lead to lethal consequences. He is obsessed with Red and cannot handle rejection, after she first falls madly for him and his suave style. He keeps reading and re-reading the emails messages she had sent him at the height of their relationship, further fuelling his anger and hatred.

Another caveat for women of today! Sending something like this can get you into a real mess with a man who later cannot take no for an answer:
You're incredible! I miss you so much, my darling Bryce. I can't wait to see you tonight.

God, my darling Bryce, what have you done to me? Every second without you is pure torture. I crave you.

There are scary moments when he manages to kidnap Red and uses a crossbow to bring down a police chopper killing all aboard, leaving one feeling helpless. He has honed his shooting skills with a vengeance and has managed to evade the police till the very end in his rush to torture and kill Red. Can Roy Grace outwit the mind of someone insane with burning anger, hatred and uncontrolled jealousy? 

Want You Dead by Peter James
Pan Macmillan

The other nine Roy Grace novels, in chronological order, are: 
Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead 
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man’s Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man’s Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man’s Time

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