Detective Superintendent Grace is called out to the brutal slaying of the wife of a successful entrepreneur. The two were a golden couple, wealthy, golf club committee member, Rotarian. The prime suspect is, of course, the husband, Brian Bishop. Evidence against him mounts. At the same time, Grace is distracted by a reported sighting of his wife, who has been missing for nine years, and the resulting difficulties with his new girlfriend, Cleo.
If you like thrillers, you'll enjoy this book. The pacing is excellent, and there are many twists and turns. Unfortunately, I'm not fond of thrillers, so shame on me for not looking more carefully when selecting this book. I also don't like horror stories, so being in the heads of the women being attacked did not add to the story for me.
The narrative moves around placing us in several different heads. Our attention is divided between Grace, the murderer, the husband (who may or may not be the same person), the various victims, and a down-and-out drug dealer named Skunk. Maybe my brain just isn't agile enough anymore, but I found the constant diversion of attention distracting. It may be personal preference again, since I like to discover clues along with the detective.
However, local color of Brighton and Hove is good, and it is interesting to see the author explore the psychology of various characters. He does a good job with many of them—Grace's newly separated partner Glenn Branson, Grace himself—but Grace's borderline alcoholic and sex-obssessed girlfriend, Cleo, didn't ring true to me.
Writers can always break the rules if they have a good reason. In describing a place, writers are advised to choose one or two details that reinforce what you're trying to achieve with the scene. Yet, in describing Brian Bishop's arrest, James gives us everything: Bishop's objections to having his Blackberry and reading glasses taken away, how he felt about removing each item of clothing, exhaustive detail about the cell's appearance down to the material making up the washbasin. What the author achieves with this is to bring us fully into the baffled unreality of a person arrested and placed in a cell for the first time. It was interesting to explore how it would feel to be arrested, and I can see why the author wanted to follow Brian into that experience.
Brilliant, but not particularly important to the story, and of course gives a lot away, unless perhaps the man has multiple personality disorder. This kind of clue, added to the insight from the other characters' minds, meant that I saw the end coming way too soon, though I did keep listening to see how we got there. The themes of obsession and revenge are fertile ones. The author could have dug a bit deeper here, but perhaps I am asking for too much from a thriller. Maybe a thriller just needs to be a roller coaster ride, in which case this book succeeds just fine.