Peter James brings out 17th in multi-million-selling Roy Grace detective series

Left You Dead comes out in hardback on May 13 – and already he is starting on next year’s Grace.

Peter James
Peter James

“It has been a great ride,” says Peter, “way, way beyond my wildest dreams. I thought I might do maybe two books, and then with Dead Simple people started speculating about what happened to (Grace’s missing wife) Sandy and I started thinking I could have some fun with this. I can’t believe I have now started writing the 18th Roy Grace book.

“I just really enjoy it. I am brimming with ideas.”

So, no, there are absolutely no thoughts of tossing his detective off the Reichenbach Falls as Conan Doyle so famously did to do Sherlock Holmes.

“And then Conan Doyle had to eat humble pie and bring him back. The same with Ian Rankin. Rebus got to retirement age and Ian brought in someone else which wasn’t a great success and Ian brought Rebus back when the police retirement age changed in Scotland.”

That won’t be happening to Grace: “I just feel constantly lucky that I have found something that people want to read and enjoy reading. It enables me to research things that I find interesting. I am also working on a new stand-alone book that I hope to write this coming autumn, a family mystery, and that wouldn’t have worked for Grace.”

But otherwise the Graces will keep on coming. In fact, last year’s Grace, Find Them Dead, was his most successful so far, spending five weeks at number one – even if some people were a bit “grumpy” that Grace wasn’t in it enough: “I have just got to be careful that I don’t repeat myself, and I just wanted to do something a bit different, set in a court room. And the success was just phenomenal.”

As for this year’s Roy Grace: “It’s a couple (Niall and Eden Paternoster) who are in their early 30s, and every Sunday they go for a drive out into the countryside to visit National Trust places or whatever and every Sunday they have a row about something. This particular Sunday, the row is about cat litter. He should have picked some up the day before and didn’t, and she is wanting to stop to pick some up on the way home.

“They have been to Parham House and they are driving back to Brighton, but he doesn’t want to stop because he doesn’t want to miss the start of the Belgian Grand Prix.

“But they do stop. She says she will just be two minutes, and they pull into the big Tesco superstore on the outskirts of Brighton. He sits in the car. She dashes into the superstore… and never comes out again.”

He waits. And waits. But Eden doesn’t come back out – she’s gone. When he gets home, she’s not there either, and none of their friends or family have heard from her.

A few days later, and vigorously protesting his innocence, Niall is arrested on suspicion of her murder. When Roy Grace is called in to investigate Eden’s disappearance, it soon transpires that nothing is originally as it seemed…

The book is set in September 2019, before the pandemic – something Peter hasn’t yet decided how he will deal with.

“The danger is setting something in a Covid situation which looks a lot different a year to 18 months later by the time the book is published. That’s the really hard thing.

“They are talking about having everyone vaccinated by October, and maybe they will, but I think it will rumble on until the end of the year. I have got no idea when things will get back to normal.”

The other consideration, of course, is whether there will actually be an appetite for a book set during a pandemic for readers who might well be reading in the hope of getting away from the pandemic, Peter says.

The series made its debut as a TV adaptation earlier this year.