Reading the first few pages of Not Dead Enough, Peter James' terrific new novel, is like seeing again friends one has only met a couple of times before, briefly but memorably: Roy Grace, 39-year-old Detective Superintendent with the Sussex CID, his best mate Glen Branson, still having marital problems; Cleo, with whom a romance had just started to blossom in the last book; and the other inhabitants of Grace's world in and around Brighton and Hove, England.
The first two books in this series, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead, were among the best this reviewer read in 2006, and this newest offering is a worthy third entry.
Katie Bishop, beautiful young socialite, is found dead in her home, brutally murdered. When the police find her husband, Brian, to notify him of his wife's murder, he is 60 miles away attending a golf tournament. His alibi seems to be valid, and his shock and grief at the news seem genuine. The police are stumped - he could not have been in both places at once, could he? Is he lying? Is he being framed? DS Grace finds that the answers to these questions are elusive, yet all the evidence points to Brian as the murderer. In the midst of this, Grace suddenly finds his world tilted on its axis, as it appears that his beloved wife, Sandy, missing for over nine years with no clue as to how or why she disappeared, may still be alive and well.
The identity of the killer is a true puzzle, for the police and the reader, with tantalizing clues thrown at both. An at-first-improbable-seeming element arises, but the quality of the author's writing makes the willing suspension of disbelief on this point easier. While perhaps not as riveting as the first two books in the series, it is constantly engrossing, and the author soon ramps up the tale and the suspense to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
[I knew I would love this book as soon as I saw that the author had dedicated it to his three dogs.]