Name: Find Them Dead
Author: Peter James
Genre: Crime. Thriller, Murder-Mystery
For this months review I will be taking a look at Find Them Dead by Peter James. The book was one bought by my sister to keep her occupied during lockdown and she recommended it for me so I had a look through it as well.
The novel is part of the Roy Grace series of novels and is the 16th entry into the series, though I haven’t read any of the previous novels. It was fairly standalone but there was the odd reference which might’ve been to events in the other novels but nothing that made it difficult to follow.
The novel begins with Roy Grace working temporarily at London’s Met Police where he gets a tip off about a county lines drug gang which was operating out of Brighton. At the same time we meet Mickey Starr who is established straight away as a drug dealer who smuggles drugs into the country for his employer. He has the drugs inside a recreated Ferrari but due to Grace’s tip off he is suspected at the border of smuggling in the drugs. He manages to escape by attacking the Border Police and escapes in a car but is caught up with by police and arrested. Inside the car they find £6 million worth of cocaine.
The police discover his associate appears to be Terence Gready, a man who on the face of it is a criminal aid lawyer and a pillar of the community but behind the scenes is running a drugs empire, with Mickey Starr as his lieutenant when he is also arrested.
Separately, Meg Magellan has finally got her life back together, five years after losing her husband and son in a car accident. Her eldest daughter, Laura is about to embark on a gap year by travelling to South America with her friend Cassie and Meg misses her badly. She is also made redundant when she receives a jury summons letter. In between jobs she is initially excited as it may distract her from missing Laura. However she is accepted onto Terence Gready’s trial and that is when everything changes.
Gready has contacts who spy on all of the jurors selected and he has chosen Meg as being someone he can use to persuade the others to deliver a not guilty verdict. Just a few days into her service, Meg arrives home to find a photograph of Laura in Ecuador and a burner phone. The man on the other end says if she doesn’t get the jurors to find him not guilty, then they will harm Laura.
We also learn Mickey Starr has a younger bother, Stuie and the reason he is involved in drug dealing is so that he can earn money to look after him and eventually start a fish and chip shop on Brighton seafront. Gready is aware of Mickey’s brother and tells his solicitor to contact some heavies to send a warning to Mickey to plead guilty and to say he had never met Terence Gready to strengthen his defence.
Meanwhile, Grace returns back to his Sussex job and on the first day he has to investigate what appears to be the senseless murder of Stuie Starr.
Will Meg succeed in nobbling the jury to find Gready not guilty? Or will she fail and her daughter come into harm? Also will the connection between Stuie’s murder and the county lines drugs his brother was involved in be discovered?
The novel moves at a fast-paced with very short chapters that are only a couple of pages long each. The chapters move between the events very quickly (the novel has over 100 chapters in total and some chapters are only two pages long).
I did struggle to get into the book at the beginning as it did seem to have some padding and the plot meanders around a lot, though it has some exciting car chases at the beginning with Mickey’s attempted escape and Grace’s introduction working for the London Met Police, it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. In fact I did read the first few chapters very slowly and I’m struggling to remember really what happened in them. However once Meg receives the phone call from the man that her daughter is in danger the book was much more exciting as she repeatedly asks herself how far she is willing to go to save the person she loves.
The parts where I didn’t enjoy the novel so much was when Grace did appear. To me the character seemed almost a background player in the overall scheme of things as the story places way more focus Meg and her journey which was actually a good thing as it was the part that I found more interesting and relatable. Even though I haven’t read the previous entries even I could see Grace is hardly used in this novel.
There are some side plots involving Grace’s boss Cassian Pewe who from reading reviews of this novel I can see is a recurring character fans hate and also a character called Dr. Crisp who is a serial killer escapes from prison during the books events. However both of these things seem like background sub plots and I was expecting in both cases it would have some connection with Gready’s trial e.g. there is a suggestion Pewe is corrupt so I though he might’ve been involved in turning a blind eye from Gready’s drugs ring.
Also you expect Meg might be found out by Grace who maybe tries to help her but that also doesn’t happen. In fact, these side plots seem to have no impact at all on the main plot which might be due to it being part of a series arc and its setting up events for later novels.
The detail in the courtroom scenes and Meg’s journey is handled really well as she goes from fear, to paranoia and even to confidence that she could pull this off. Gready is a scary antagonist and his presence is there throughout the book as you realise just how much power and influence he has which is shown in the scary violence inflicted on Stuie and how Mickey got drawn into working for him because he was able to get him off a conviction.
The finale of the novel is very surprising and definitely comes as a bolt out of the blue, though the book doesn’t give answers to every question that the reader might have in Meg’s journey and exactly how Gready was threatening her daughter.
Overall once you get past the slow start, the novel is quite an interesting courtroom drama and Meg is an interesting protagonist who holds the readers interest. However there are two many unanswered questions and too little appearance of the main character for it to be enjoyable for fans of the series.