REVIEW: Peter James' Not Dead Enough, The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until March 11.

It's a wicked web Peter James weaves in the latest stage adaptation from his best-selling series of Roy Grace detective novels.

Not Dead Enough. Photo by Mark Douet
Not Dead Enough. Photo by Mark Douet

The joy is that in Shane Richie – so recently on this very same stage in panto – he has found the perfect person to step into the detective superintendent’s shoes.

Richie brought the house down over Christmas. Here he brings complete earnestness and doggedness to the part, with just occasional flashes of humour – and he works it beautifully to deliver something nicely close to the Grace we’ve come to know in the novels.

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Along the way, Richie is helped admirably by Laura Whitmore in a performance all the more remarkable for the fact that it is her professional stage debut.

Whitmore is Grace’s mortician girlfriend Cleo in a plot full of plenty of deadly twists.

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims.

It’s obvious he did it. Or is it?

Stephen Billington keeps us guessing very nicely indeed, pitching his performance beautifully in the realms of ambiguity.

In truth, the unravelling of it all is just a touch disappointing. Does the tale play entirely fair with us? Possibly not.

But the pleasure is all in the twisty-turny journey we take getting there, as Peter James leads us all up the garden path. The piece is staged with great cleverness, the split stage allowing the cast a deliver a series of short scenes at cracking pace. James hooks you, intrigues you and drags you in. An excellent night.

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