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Dead Simple by Peter James (Roy Grace #1)

Dead Simple is the first book in the Roy Grace crime mystery / thriller series by the British author Peter James. I have a couple of books in the series at home, but since I didn’t get a chance to read the first book until now, I left them untouched on a shelf in the other room. Until now…right until I saw the first book listed on NetGalley with a new republishing date of October 2014. I figured this is my chance to finally read the series and catch up to the books I already have at home.

The story starts with a bang. 4 drunk friends are driving around in the night from pub to pub on a stag night. It soon gets revealed that one of the guys – the trickster one called Michael – is getting married to his girlfriend Ashley in just a few days, and the gang is on a binge drinking spree to celebrate the ending of their friend’s celibacy…

…until things go awfully wrong.

Michael has always played rather ugly tricks on his friends when they were gettingmarried, so the said friends decided to return the favor and play a stag night prank on him by burying him alive and leaving him in the coffin in a nearby forest – only for a few hours, mind you, until the guys go visit a few more pubs before they return.

Except they don’t.

A horrible car accident leaves 2 of them dead and one in deep coma in the hospital. Which leaves Michael alone in his coffin with only a tube for some fresh air from above, a dirty magazine, a flashlight and a walkie-talkie to keep him company.

This is the chilling, creepy and extremely suspenseful premise of the book. Let’s just say I got hooked right from the start. I mean how could you not?

Detective Roy Grace is called to investigate the weird case when the police realize that a 4th person was missing from the accident and is nowhere to be found. He reluctantly takes the case, but gets quickly engaged when he realizes that there is much more to the story than the facts show on the surface.

A 5th friend, Mark, arrives soon to the scene – he was away on a business trip when the accident happened – and Roy learns that indeed there was a stag night arranged, but Mark missed it due to a delay in the return flight home.

Roy is an interesting character – and one that I can relate to. He believes in the supernatural and the 6th sense and he has a few psychics and mediums consulting with him when the going gets too tough. His superiors don’t approve of his unorthodox tactics, but when the results are there, there is not much they can do – as long as he keeps quiet about his investigative methods.

Sidenote: I was pleasantly surprised to read the paranormal aspect (the book is not paranormal in any way, don’t get me wrong), as I strongly believe in psychic skills, the 6th sense and the fact that there is more out there than meets the eye. It is fact that police often consults psychics and mediums to solve very difficult cases (see Allison Dubois as an example) and I am in fact glad that things are not as rigid and closed-off as they used to be years ago in this respect.

The more Roy investigates, the more he realizes that he is racing against time to save Michael – who is somewhere stashed away. Michael’s life depends on Roy’s acting fast. During the investigation there are some characters who seem a bit too smooth for being real and Roy is after them like a hound after his prey.

There are tons of twists and turns with several scary scenes that turn your stomach into painful knots, and that’s exactly how I felt when reading the book. Keeping me on my toes the whole time, giving me enough detailed descriptions to imagine just how horrible Michael must be feeling through the ordeal (and being in the coffin was not all he suffered through), I’ve read this book in a long afternoon over the weekend.

In this particular book we, the readers, were told what was going on before Roy Grace found out through his investigation, so it was interesting to see how he would decipher the clues in order to find Michael and solve the entire gruesome case. He is a good detective, and despite his baggage of sorrow and pain (related to his wife), when he is on the hunt, nothing can stop him from solving the case.

The characters were well done, especially Roy, and I’m looking forward to read the next books in the series and learn more about his  personal issue related to his wife that I’m hoping will be resolved in subsequent books.

A very satisfying read, the perfect material for anyone who loves gory crime thrillers which keep the tension and suspense going till the last page.

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