Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Dead Simple: Peter James

There are fashions in fictional detectives. Back at the beginning of the last century the eccentric but brilliant amateur was in vogue. By mid century he'd been supplanted by the wise and paternalistic professional- think Maigret or Wexford. Now the detective of choice is a workaholic professional with a maverick streak- like Wallander.

Peter James' detective is very much in the current groove. He's middle-aged, works all hours and- maverick streak coming up- employs psychics and dowsers. I like that particular eccentricity- but it better not be overworked or it'll make his job too easy. Otherwise, I find him rather dull and samey- and I'm not sure he's a character I'll want to be following through a series that already runs to ten volumes. I reckon it's time someone invented a new type of detective.

Dead Simple is a satisfactory construct- reasonably plausible- especially when it comes to the wear and tear and some of the tricks of police work- baffling up to the halfway point, with one or two nice twists and a strong line in suspense. It's set in Sussex and I enjoyed being able to say, "Been there!" as the locations- Ashdown Forest, Hove, Shoreham- scrolled by. My least favourite thing about it is the persistent tang of blokeishness- with a tendency for all the younger female characters to be characterised in terms of their hair colour and bra size. If you're a bit of a petrolhead you'll be pleased to find James knows his motors and writes a bloody good car chase.
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