Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Looking Good Dead: Peter James, April 31—May 10, 2014
My rating: ♦♦◊◊◊
After a disappointing first outing in 2011, Roy Grace was rested and given another go in this unimproved follow-up.
Grace is in charge of a new investigation which has many of the hallmarks of Dead Simple: gratuitous violence, graphic sex and offensive dialogue. Three characters wet themselves and one defecates, and the murders are simply horrific.
Where some superior writers find their plots meandering into the unpleasant, James appears to take delight from the opportunity to write about gore, smut and paedophilia and shoe horns it in, however unnecessary. Given there is no child abuse in the case at any point, the sheer number of references suggests James has a bee in his bonnet about the issue, or a dark pleasure in alluding to it. The question begged of almost all of the unsavoury content: does this add anything? The answer: usually not.
Supporting characters are given too much page time. A whole chapter is dedicated to the woman who finds the body. A whole chapter about her new part in a musical and all sorts of useless trivia, only for her to never be mentioned again. This isn’t characterisation; it’s pointless. When he’s finished that, we learn everything but the OS coordinates of the exact spot in Brighton where the action is set at that moment, a social profiling going back 20 years and a run down of where’s good for a kebab nearby. I’m all for immersive settings, but Rankin’s Edinburgh or McBride’s Aberdeen this is not.
Elsewhere, when layers of pointless detail isn’t being laboured on every extra and setting, James has somehow put together a cast transcending class that nevertheless are united in their anti-Labour, anti-Blair, anti-Iraq views. There are too many references to the then-Blair government to be editorially justified. I want a story, Mr. James, not an agenda.
The exception to the universal thought process is the new character – an un-PC old timer who comes in with no reason other than to give James an opportunity to pour out racist, homophobic bile and then have Grace tell him off. It seems like another excuse to commit the horrible words to page.
The much maligned mediums are back, but don’t wreck the book the way they did with Dead Simple. Having said that, the climax comes out of nowhere and is not at all satisfying. The various loose ends aren’t tied up so much as the author merely states they don’t matter any more.
I did enjoy the last line though. It raised a small smile.
A poor excuse for a “snuff book”, fittingly full of dung beetles, and a very definite end to Grace’s career on my bookshelf.