This is another fantastic novel from renowned author, Peter James. I've followed Peter's career since Possession, which means I've been reading his books for approximately <gulp!> 20 years. And he just gets better and better...
While I loved the supernatural and medical/scientific thrillers he's really found his niche in the crime fiction market. Unlike some writers I've read, Peter knows his books' locales - especially Brighton and Hove - inside out. He writes with conviction and knowledge about every twisting lane, every seedy or upper-class street, the beachfront, the people who live there. It lends his work that all-important sense of the reality. Until recently (when I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the publishers' launch on Brighton pavilion) I'd never visited Brighton. But it didn't matter because one of the many things Mr James excels at is evoking his surroundings, seedy or otherwise.
Not that he restricts himself to Brighton, you understand. DMF contains several well managed multiple storylines, one of which takes place on 9/11 (and the days directly thereafter). Timeline jumps are notoriously difficult to pull off, but James does so with consummate ease, such that I didn't mind the jumping from a tense moment involving a imminent torture to the aftermath of 9/11 and the protagonist of that plotline; or to Australia, where a different strand of the investigation is vigorously pursued. I loved the trip to Munich to search for his missing partner in Not Dead Enough, but James has taken it several steps further this time by including multiple locations and timelines ... and successfully retaining our interest.
The short, punchy chapters certainly help move things along. The believable dialogue and amusing exchanges between the main characters, especially Grace and Branson/Vosper/Pewe etc. all add to the book's effectiveness. I'd also echo other readers' comments about the ever interesting Potting. I really hope he's in all future Grace novels - we all know someone like him!
This is such a clever, ambitious book. I know that many readers read crime books and thrillers for the plot, but for me that's never been the most important element. I have to be convinced by the characters and their motivations; actually, I have to like them; think of them as real people, not ciphers. Not only does James deliver on this front, but he continues to develop his characters as the series continues. Also, with Peter's books I always get that feeling that I'm `in the story'; that the pages have effectively disappeared. James provides this and much more besides. The insanely ingenious plotlines and numerous twists and turns are the icing on the cake of any already enviable literary feast.
So why should you buy this book? Because it's clever and smart, with convincing dialogue and brilliant character observations? Because of the multiple plots and hard-to-guess twists? The fast pace and detailed observations? The technical, well researched details and sense of realism? Well, all these things, of course, and many more besides. Mostly I read his books because I love his writing: full stop.
And now we have to wait another year and I'm already missing Grace and co. And that last line! Talk about cliff-hangers...