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Daft but riveting
on 14 June 2012
I have been a great fan of Peter James's Inspector Grace novels, although in the last one, with its sadistic mafia hitman and strange development in the missing wife subplot, he seemed to be straying into Harlan Coben territory, if not the realms of fantasy. In Perfect People, he has embraced the fantasy element wholeheartedly.
John and Naomi, understandably anxious to avoid the heartbreak of losing a second child to a rare genetic disorder, borrow a huge sum and go to a dodgy doctor specialising in genetic modification. His clinic operates from an offshore cruise liner due to the illegality of what it does and threats from religious objectors (I am rather tired of the current trend to portray all religious people as homicidal nutcases, but to be fair, the scientists in this book don't come out much better). Naomi duly conceives, but from the first scan the couple begin to realise that they have not been told the whole truth and that they might be in for a few shocks. Once Naomi gives birth via a nightmare caesarian, she and John are briefly happy until threats from the murderous religious group necessitate their fleeing to England. Then the shocks come thick and fast, never letting up till the very end of this rather bleak story.
Mr. James is a good writer - his characters are well developed and you care about them. Ridiculous as the plot becomes - and it gets very silly indeed - you can't help reading on and wondering when or if this poor couple, who only ever wanted a healthy child, are going to get a break.
In a note at the end, Peter James says he researched carefully and everything which happens in the story is possible. Maybe so, and there is undoubtedly room for a novel which explores the risks and potential consequences of extreme genetic manipulation. However, Perfect People reads like Rosemary's Baby Meets The Omen in a Brave New World. It's a page-turner, but I didn't believe a word.