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Archive for the tag “Peter James”

Ghost stories by authors surnamed James

The House on Cold Hill (House on Cold Hill, #1)The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently read a book of ghost stories by Henry James (see my review here) and was somewhat less than impressed. I had previously read one of the stories, “The Turn of the Screw”, and found the style convoluted and almost unreadable. It wasn’t improved on a second reading. I was in the library looking for ghost stories by Montague James, whose stories are said to be better, but they didn’t have any, but next to Henry James on the shelf was Peter James, and so I took out The House on Cold Hill.

I know Peter James primarily as a writer of detective stories featuring detective Roy Grace in Brighton in the south of England. I’d read a couple of Peter James’s non-detective stories before, and had not been very impressed. I thought he would do better to stick to crime fiction. But The House on Cold Hill is different. And I was not disappointed. When it comes to authors surnamed “James”, Peter undoubtedly writes better ghost stories than Henry. For a start they are written in plain English, where you don’t have to read every sentence three times to try to puzzle out the author’s meaning.

I suppose they could also be classified as horror. Not all ghost stories are scary. Some are meant to be scary but fail; this one succeeds. I was reminded of Phil Rickman, who began writing stories in the supernatural horror genre and gradually shifted to writing crime stories. Perhaps Peter James is on the opposite route — having started writing whodunits, he is now writing ghost stories like the early Phil Rickman. I’ll be looking out for more like this. I won’t say that Peter James is the new Phil Rickman, but perhaps he’s the old one revived, like an old ghost.

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Dead man’s grip – book review

Dead Man's Grip (Roy Grace, #7)Dead Man’s Grip by Peter James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I kept thinking that I had read it before, but then wondered why so much of it seemed quite new.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called on to investigate a serious hit-and-run motor accident, where the victim is an American student whose family have Mafia connections, promptin fears that they might take revenge on those they see as responsible.

Roy Grace has worries at home, however, as his girlfriend Cleo is having a difficult pregnancy, and has to spend some time in hospital. These were the bits I thought I had read before, and, having reached the end of the book I realise that that is because I must have read the next book in the series before this one, and in that one the pregnancy and its problems continue.

This is a police procedural rather than a whodunit, as you know who is going to do it even before it is done, but I think it is very well done, and is one of Peter James‘s best books I’ve read so far.

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Book Review: Prophecy, by Peter James

ProphecyProphecy by Peter James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I began reading this book, I didn’t like it much. Perhaps my initial dislike was just prejudice. One of the characters is a child called Edward, and I don’t think that is really a child’s name. Yes, as a child I knew other kids called Edward, but not many, and it makes me think of people like the late US senator Ted Kennedy.

I’ve also read books by Peter James before. He writes whodunits, featuring Detective Inspector Roy Grace of the Brighton police. But this wasn’t a whodunit, it was more like a supernatural horror story along the same lines as The turn of the screw by Henry James.

Well, I’ve come across such things before. Phil Rickman started off writing supernatural horror stories like Candlenight, but has gradually drifted into the whodunit genre, and his exorcist-in-chief, Merrily Watkins, has turned into an amateur detective in his more recent books. Peter James seems to keep his genres more separate than that, and his exorcist has nothing in common with Detective Inspector Roy Grace.

I liked the story more as it went along, and it had occasional resemblances to some of the “supernatural thrillers” of Charles Williams, particularly his War in heaven.

This is not the sort of book one can say too much about without spoilers that give away the plot. Francesca (Frannie) Monsanto is an archaeologist working at the British Museum, and a chance meeting leads to the possibility of romance with a widower, whose young son, Edward, seems to have unpredictable moods. But the chance meeting seems to be more than pure chance, and “coincidences” seem to keep happening, including unpleasant things happening to Frannie’s friends, until she thinks that there is a common thread linking them all.

I began the book not liking it much. A couple of the scenes seemed unnecessarily gruesome, and there are some plot holes, but in the end I thought it was a good read, and better than Peter James’s detective stories. Not quite Charles Williams, though.

Another interesting, though minor, point about this book is that it was not listed in Good Reads at all, and the ISBN had no matches on any of the linked sites, like Amazon UK, and so I had to enter it from scratch. Yet it has been around for quite a while, having been first published in 1992, and in the current edition in 1999, and reissued in 2006.

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