Review: Dead If You Don’t by Peter James

Dead If You DontThe clock is ticking for Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace — and a teenage kidnap victim plucked from the heaving Amex Stadium on the day of Brighton and Hove Albion’s first match of their debut Premier League season.

Kipp Brown is a successful businessman — and a monstrously compulsive gambler. Accustomed to the volatility of luck, a veteran of riding the waves fortune and misfortune and always coming out on top, for the first time in his life, Kipp is stuck in a seemingly irrevocable losing streak. He’s losing, often and spectacularly. And things are about to get worse.

Within minutes of arriving at the Amex Stadium for Brighton and Hove’s debut match in the Premier League, Kipp’s son, Mungo, disappears. His first thought: Mungo’s stormed off after their argument during the drive to the stadium. Mungo is a capricious teenager; he’s probably blowing off some steam. Kipp’s not too worried. Until he gets a message that his son has been taken, and to get him back alive, Kipp will have to pay. With money he doesn’t have.

Enter: Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Who quickly realises this is no straightforward case of kidnap. In order to return Mungo to his family, Grace and his cohorts will have to dive deep into a dark, violent criminal underbelly, where nobody wants to talk to the cops for fear of retribution. By the time you’ve reached the final page, the events of 48 hours detailed in propulsive, pulse-pounding fashion have turned Brighton into one of the murder capitals of the world.

Dead If You Don’t is a tightly-plotted, fast-paced, addictive page-turner. Vintage Peter James, in other words. He packs half-a-dozen meaty, painstakingly interlinked subplots into his mystery cops, crims and victims all get their chance in the spotlight   but the economy and perceptiveness of his prose shifts these scenes seamlessly. This is another gem in James’s long-running series.

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