One of the aspects of writing crime fiction that is obviously very important to Peter James, indeed one of the issues that he emphasised in panel sessions and during an in depth interview at CrimeFest 2011, is the depth and accuracy of his research. This is borne out in his novels.
DEAD TOMORROW shows James is an authority not only on British police procedures but also on the several topics that the novel touches on. Minute details add authority to his writing, to the point where the reader thinks "I am learning something important here."
James uses all this background detail to create another world for us to temporarily to become part of: one where we get to know a complement of characters to the point where we actually care what happens to them.
DEAD TOMORROW is #5 in Peter James' Roy Grace series set in Brighton. (#7 has just been published). Grace's wife Sandy disappeared nearly 10 years ago and until now Grace has wanted to believe she is still alive. Her has searched assiduously and even consulted seances. There has been a supposed sighting in Germany but his search has continued throughout the series. But now he has a new love in his life, Cleo, and he wants to move on.
I'd like to comment too on a couple of characteristics of James' writing that i find both unusual and well done.
The author often reveals that he has fore-knowledge of future events that will embroil a character. There are several
As he headed jauntily along the quay, towards her black hull and orange superstructure, he was happily unaware of the cargo that would accompany them back from his next voyage, scheduled to start in just a couple of hours' time, and the trauma it would bring to his own life.
Peter James seems to introduce each character rather systematically. He devotes quite a bit of space to background details for each, but once characters have been introduced, the reader knows their paths will converge somewhere sooner or later.
As a detective Roy Grace has some defining characteristics. For example one of the tricks he has taught members of his team is to watch what a person's eyes do during an interview. They refer to it as a lie detection test.
Here is another extract I found interesting. [Roy Grace believes in occasionally going back to the basics, by referring to a definitive tome on his shelves called the Murder Investigation Manual.]
Updated regularly, it contained every procedure for every aspect of a murder investigation, including a well-mapped-out Murder Investigation Model, which he turned to now. The Fast Track Menu, which he read through again now to refresh himself, contained ten points which were ingrained in every homicide detective's brain - and precisely because they were so familiar, some of them could easily be overlooked.
Grace uses the manual as a personal check list to ensure that he is covering all aspects the investigation should encompass.
DEAD TOMORROW is a long novel, one in which the reader certainly gets their money's worth. Partly the length is generated by the fact that there are a large number of characters, and part it comes through detailed descriptive passages. But it is held together by a strong narrative, and the length does not grate.