James, Peter - 'Dead Man's Time'
DEAD MAN'S TIME is the ninth outing in the long running series about a detective in the Brighton Police Force, Roy Grace. The main story concerns the theft of valuable paintings, furniture and other antiques from the house of a ninety-eight-year-old lady, Aileen McWhirter. The old lady is left alive (just) after the robbery, but dies shortly afterwards, turning a robbery with violence into a murder investigation. Her younger brother, Gavin, is not only shocked and saddened by his sister's death, but is particularly upset about the disappearance of a treasured watch, taken during the robbery. The watch (apart from being worth about two million pounds) has great sentimental value. It was given to him as a young boy back in 1922, as he and his sister left New York to go to Ireland with their aunt, after his mother had been shot, and his father kidnapped (and probably murdered). Just as they were about to leave, he was passed a bag with a gun, the watch, and a newspaper article with a string of numbers written on the paper, numbers that he still hasn't managed to decode after all these years. Numbers that might help him find the body of his long deceased father, as he promised to do so long ago. In parallel with the police investigation to find the culprits, Gavin enlists the help of his son, Lucas, to carry out their own investigation and recover the watch (with rather more violent overtones).
As with previous books, there are the usual interspersed chapters featuring Roy's missing wife Sandy – I feel mostly to maintain this long running plot-line. And there is the conflict between the job, and Roy's life with his lover Cleo and their new baby, together with the potential threat to their safety from a recently released convict, Amis Smallbone. Put away for twelve years, Amis blames Roy for ruining his life, and is determined to exact his revenge in some way.
As one might expect from this prolific author, the book is competently put together with a gradually unfolding, logical plot, a few real surprises and a few other 'surprises' that one is clearly intended to guess. The only real beef I have with the book (which I read pretty much in one sitting) is the occasional strange portrayal of women. For example, clearly Cleo and Roy want to start their sex-life off again, following the birth of the baby, and as many new parents do, are struggling with broken nights and lack of sleep (and libido). So, it doesn't really ring true that Cleo would go to an Ann Summers shop (with baby in tow), and then appear with 'silk ties' for some unlikely kinky sex. And a 'science' issue – Malignant hypothermia is not an allergic reaction. Anyway, niggle aside, this was an entertaining and satisfying read, and another successful outing for Peter James.
Read another review of Dead Man's Time.
Michelle Peckham, England