A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying. Millions worth of valuables have been stolen. But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that her powerful family cherish above all else. And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything—absolutely anything—to get it back. Within days, Grace is racing against the clock, following a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922, chasing a killer driven by the force of one man's greed and another man's fury.
About the Author
Peter James is a New York Times-bestselling writer of crime fiction. His novels, which include the bestselling Roy Grace series, have been translated into 36 languages, with worldwide sales of 17 million copies. He is Overseas Vice-President of International Thriller Writers in the U.S., and served two terms as chairperson of the UK Crime Writers Association.
Read an Excerpt
Dead Man's Time
By Peter James
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Really Scary Books/Peter James
All rights reserved.
Brooklyn, February 1922
The boy's father kissed him goodnight for the last time – although neither of them knew that.
The boy never went to sleep until he had had that kiss. Every night, late, long after he had gone to bed, he would lie waiting in the darkness, until he heard the door of his room open, and saw the light flood in from the landing. Then the shadowy figure and the sound of his father's heavy footsteps across the bare boards. 'Hey, little guy, you still awake?' he would say in his low, booming voice.
'Yep, big guy, I am! Can I see your watch?'
His father would take out the watch from his pocket, and hold it up by the chain. It was shiny, with a big, round face, and there was a winder on the top with a hoop the chain was attached to. In the top half of the face was a section that showed the phases of the moon. The sky behind the moon was dark blue and the stars were gold. Sometimes the moon was barely visible, just peeping out. Other times it was whole, an ochre disc.
Every night the boy would ask his father to tell him a story about the Man in the Moon. His father always did. Then he would tousle his hair, kiss him on the forehead and ask, 'You said your prayers?'
The boy would nod.
'You go to sleep now.'
Then his father would clump back out of the room and close the door.
That's how it was the very last time.CHAPTER 2
Four men lurched their way up the street towards the house of the man they had come to kill. Three of them were unsteady because they'd drunk too much; the fourth because he had drunk too much and had a wooden leg.
They had been boozing to steady their nerves, to get some Dutch courage, they had reassured each other a while earlier, over clinking glasses and slopping beer and whiskey chasers, in the packed Vinegar Hill bar. The one with a wooden leg wasn't convinced they were doing the right thing, but he went along with his mates, because that's what you did when you were part of a gang. You either went along with them or they killed you too.
It was a few minutes to midnight and the street was dark and deserted, steady rain glossing the cobblestones. Each of them had a handgun, and two of them carried baseball bats as well, concealed inside their coats. It was a cold night. Cold enough for Hell to freeze over. They all wore fingerless mittens.
'This is it,' their leader said, peering at the number on the front door of the row house. Vapour trailed from his mouth and nostrils like smoke.
Number 21, it read.
'Are we sure this is it?'
'This is it.'
'He'll be here; he's just up the road now.'
Even in the darkness, the house looked shabby, like all its neighbours in this Brooklyn waterfront district. There was a curtained window to the right of the door, with no light on behind it. They tugged their balaclavas out of their pockets, and wrestled them down over their damp heads. Their leader raised his baseball bat in his hand, and stepped forward.CHAPTER 3
The boy lay in the darkness, snug in his pyjamas beneath the heavy bedclothes, listening to the ticking of the big, round clock in his room. Listening to the familiar sounds of the night. The drone of a passing ship on the busy, inky water of the East River close by. The clatter of a train, high overhead. The creaking of bed springs through the thin wall to his parents' bedroom; moans from his parents. His mother crying out. His father's loud grunt. The gentle patter of rain on the roof above him. The night had its own sounds. Its own music.
The tinkle of breaking glass was not part of it.
He froze. It sounded like it came from downstairs, right below him. Had the cat knocked over the whiskey bottle and glass his dad left out, empty, every night? Then he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Not his dad's. His dad was already upstairs, in bed.
Several sets of footsteps.
He lay, motionless, his fear increasing. The door opened. A powerful torch beam struck his face, blinding him, and he shut his eyes. Heard footsteps in his room. He could sense a whole group of people, and was shaking with fear. Could smell tobacco and alcohol and wet clothing and sweat. He felt his throat was closing in, he couldn't breathe, and his heart was going crazy. He opened his eyes and all he could see was dazzling light. He closed his eyes again, shivering, quaking in terror. Heard footsteps approaching the bed.
A hand patted his head, then his right cheek, playfully, the wool itchy against his skin.
Then a voice, coarse but soft, an Irish accent, right above him. Breathing heavily. 'Just checking you out, kid.'
'You – you – you'll wake my ma and pa,' he stammered to the stranger, suddenly finding the strength to speak and then to open his eyes again. But all he could see was the glare of light.
'And where would we be finding them?'
He pointed, squinting. 'Through there.' He put a finger in front of his mouth. 'They're sleeping. Be quiet. You'll wake them, and my sister.' Maybe now he'd told them that they would go away.
The flashlight moved off his face. But still dazzled, all he could see for some moments were pink flashes of light. He heard the sound of footsteps, on tiptoe, moving away. A floorboard creaked. Then his door closed.
Maybe they had gone home. People often came into this house, at all hours of the night. Drinking, smoking, shouting, laughing, arguing. Mostly arguing, and sometimes fighting. When they fought, his dad would throw them out. He was a big man. No one argued with his dad.
He pulled the bedclothes over his head so they would not see him if they came back.
Moments later, he heard his father bellow something. Then a loud thud, followed by another. He heard his mother scream. A terrible, terrible scream. Then she cried out, 'Leave him, leave him, leave him! Please don't! Please don't. Leave him!'
Then he heard one of the strangers say loudly, 'Get dressed!' Then his mother, her voice quavering, 'Where are you taking him! Please tell me? Where are you taking him?'
A minute went by. The boy lay frozen beneath the bedclothes, trembling.
Then his mother screamed again. 'No, you can't! You can't take him! I'll not let him go!'
Then five loud bangs, as if a door, close by, was being slammed repeatedly.
'Ma! Pa!' he screamed back, his whole body electric with fear for his parents. And now the footsteps were much louder, clumping down the stairs as if they no longer cared about being silent. He heard the click of the front door opening, then the roar of an engine and a squeal of tyres. And no sound of the door closing.
Just the echo in his mind of the terrible sound of his mother's screams.
Then the silence that followed.
It was the silence that echoed the loudest.CHAPTER 4
He lay, listening, under the bedclothes. All was quiet. Just a pounding roar in his ears and the puffing sound of his own breathing. Maybe it was just a bad dream? He was trembling all over.
After some moments he climbed out of bed in the darkness, in his pyjamas, into the cold, then hurried across the bare floorboards to where the door was, fumbling around until he found the handle, and stumbled out onto the landing. He could feel an icy draught, as if the front door really had been left open. There was a faint smell of exhaust fumes from a motor vehicle.
And there were unfamiliar smells. A reek of oil, and a sweeter, denser smell that he vaguely recognized from fireworks on the Fourth of July. And a coppery, metallic smell.
He felt around until he found the switch for the electric light and snapped it on. And, for an instant, wished he had not. He wished that darkness could have stayed for ever. So that he had never seen it.
The terrible sight of his mother on the floor beside the bed. Blood leaking from her shoulder; the whole front of her nightdress sodden with a spreading, dark-crimson stain. Blood everywhere, spattered across the walls, across the sheets, the pillows, the ceiling. She lay on her back, her black hair matted by blood. Part of her head was missing, exposing something wet, gnarly, a brown and grey colour. She was twitching and shaking.
Then, as if someone had reached over and pressed a switch, she fell silent.
He ran forward, crying out, 'Mama, Mama!'
She did not respond.
'Mama, wake up!' He shook her. 'Mama, where's Pop? Mama!'
She did not move.
He fell to his knees and crawled up to her and kissed her. 'Mama, wake up, Mama!' He hugged her and shook her. 'Wake up, Mama! Where's Pop? Where's Pa?'
Still she did not move.
'Mama!' He began crying, confused. 'Mama! Mama!' His arms and face felt sticky. 'Mama, wake, Mama, wake up ...!'
'What's happening? Gavin? What's happening?' His sister's voice.
He backed away, took a step forward, then backed away again, uncertainly. Kept backing away through the door. And collided with his sister, Aileen, three years older than him, in her nightdress, chewing a pigtail as she always did when she was afraid.
'What's happening?' she asked. 'I heard noises. What's happening?'
'Where's Pop?' he asked. 'Where's Pop? Pop's gone!' Tears were streaming down his face.
'Isn't he in bed?'
He shook his head. 'He's gone with the bad men.'
'What bad men?'
'Where's Pop? He has to wake up Mama! She won't wake up.'
'What bad men?' she asked again, more urgently.
There was blood on the landing. Drops of blood on the stairs. He ran down them, screaming for his pa, and out through the open front door.
The street was deserted.
He felt the rain on his face, smelled the salty tang of the river. For some moments, the rumble high overhead of another train drowned out his cries.CHAPTER 5
Brighton, 28 June 2012
From a distance, the man cut a dash. He looked smarter than the usual Brighton seafront crowds in their gaudy beachwear, sandals, flip-flops and Crocs. A gent, with an aloof air, in a blue blazer with silver buttons, smartly pressed slacks, open-neck shirt and a natty cravat. It was only on closer inspection you could see the shirt collar was frayed, there were moth holes in the blazer, and his slicked-back hair was thinning and a gingery-grey colour from bad dyeing. His face looked frayed, too, with the pallor that comes from prison life and takes a long time to shake off. His expression was mean, and despite his diminutive stature – five foot three in his elevated Cuban-heeled boots – he strutted along with an air of insouciance, as if he owned the promenade.
Behind his sunglasses, Amis Smallbone, on his morning constitutional, looked around with hatred. He hated everything. The pleasant warmth of this late June morning. Cyclists who pinged their bells at him as he strayed onto the cycle lane. Stupid grockles with their fat, raw skin burning in the sun, stuffing their faces with rubbish. Young lovers, hand in hand, with their lives ahead of them.
He had hated prison. Hated the other inmates even more than the officers. He might have been a player in this city once, but all that had fallen apart when he'd been sent down. He hadn't even been able to get any traction on the lucrative drugs market in the jails he had been held in.
And now he was out, on licence, he was hating his freedom, too.
Once, he'd had it all – the big house, expensive cars, a powerboat, and a villa in Marbella on Spain's Costa del Sol. Now he had fuck all. Just a few thousand pounds, a couple of watches and some stolen antique jewellery in the one safety deposit box the police hadn't managed to find.
And one man to thank for his plight.
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace.
He crossed the busy four lanes of King's Road without waiting for the lights to change. Cars braked all around him, their drivers hooting, swearing and shaking their fists at him, but he didn't give a toss. His family used to be big players in this city's underworld. A couple of decades ago, no one would have dared, ever, hoot at a Smallbone. He ignored them all, contemptuously, now.
A little way along the pavement he entered the newsagent's, and was taken aback to see the bastard cop's rugged, serious face staring out of a copy of the Argus at him. Close-cropped fair hair, blue eyes, busted nose, beneath the front-page splash.
TRIAL OF BRIGHTON MONSTER RESUMES
He bought the paper and a packet of cigarettes, as he did every day, and filled out a lottery ticket, without much hope.
* * *
A short while later, back in his basement flat, Amis Smallbone sat in the ripped leather armchair with its busted spring, a glass of Chivas Regal on the table beside him, a smouldering cigarette in his mouth, reading with interest about the case. Venner was on trial for murder, kidnap and trading in illegal videos. Last year, one of Detective Superintendent Grace's officers had been shot and wounded during the attempt to arrest Venner. Too bad it hadn't been Grace himself. Shot dead.
How nice would that be?
But not as nice as something he had in mind. To have Detective Superintendent Grace dead was too good for him. He wanted the cop to really suffer. To be in pain for the rest of his life. Oh yes. Much better. Pain that would never ever go away!
Smallbone dragged on his cigarette, then crushed it out in the ashtray and drained his glass. He had gone to prison still a relatively young man of fifty. Now he'd come out an old man at sixty-two. Detective Superintendent Grace had taken everything he had. Most of all he had taken those crucial twelve years of his life.
Of course, Grace hadn't been a Detective Superintendent back then; just a jumped-up, newly promoted Inspector who had picked on him, targeted him, fitted him up, twisted the evidence, been oh so clever, so fucking smug. It was Grace's persecution that had condemned him, now, to this cruddy rented flat, with its shoddy furniture, nosmoking signs on the walls in each room, and having to report and bloody kowtow to a Probation Officer regularly.
He put the paper down, stood up a little unsteadily, and carried his glass over to the dank-smelling kitchenette, popping some ice cubes out of the fridge-freezer into his glass. It was just gone midday, and he was thinking hard. Thinking how much pleasure he was going to get from hurting Roy Grace. It was the one thing that sustained him right now. The rest of the nation had Olympic fever – the games were starting in a month's time. But he didn't give a toss about them; getting even with Roy Grace was all he cared about.
All he could really think about.
He was going to make that happen. His lips curled into a smile. He just had to find the right person. There were names he knew from before he'd gone to prison, and a few more contacts he'd made inside. But whoever it was wouldn't come cheap, and that was a big problem right now.
Then his phone rang. The display showed the number was withheld.
'Yes?' he answered, suspiciously.
'Amis Smallbone?' It was not a voice he recognized. A rough, Brighton accent.
'Who are you?' he replied, coldly.
'We met a long time back, but you won't remember me. I need some help. You have connections in the antiques world, right? Overseas? For high-value stuff?'
'What if I do?'
'I'm told you need money.'
'Didn't anyone tell you that you shouldn't be calling me on a fucking mobile phone?'
'Yeah, I know that.'
'Then why the fuck are you calling me on mine?'
'I'm talking a lot of money. Several million quid.'
Suddenly, Amis Smallbone was very interested indeed. 'Tell me more.'
The line went dead.CHAPTER 6
They were right, thought Roy Grace, all those people who had told him that having a baby would totally change his life. He yawned, leadenly tired from endless disturbed nights with Cleo getting up every time Noah had woken needing a feed or his nappy changing. One of his colleagues, Nick Nicholl, a recent first-time father, had told him he'd taken to sleeping in a separate room so he wouldn't be disturbed by the baby. But Roy was determined never to do that. The baby was a joint commitment and he had to play his part. But, shit, he felt tired; and grungy; it was a sticky August day and, although all of the windows were open, the air was listless, warm and humid.
The television was on, playing the recording of the Olympics closing ceremony from less than a couple of weeks ago. He and Cleo had both fallen asleep watching it live on the night. He could not remember ever feeling so tired in his life, and it was affecting his concentration at work. He was definitely suffering from baby brain.
Excerpted from Dead Man's Time by Peter James. Copyright © 2013 Really Scary Books/Peter James. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the beginning we are introduced to Gavin Daly, a five-year-old boy sleeping in his parents’ Brooklyn apartment when some men enter, shoot and kill his mother, and abduct his father, after which Daly and his sister are taken to the British Isles by their aunt. The tale opens ninety years after these acts took place in this latest D.S. Roy Grace procedural in Brighton, England. Now violence again occurs when the 92-year-old sister’s home is invaded, she is killed, about 2 million pounds worth of antiques are stolen, and, more importantly, a valuable watch, practically the only remembrance of their father, is removed from a secret compartment in her safe. Daly tells Roy he cares less about the antiques, but he wants the watch back. Thus begins an extensive investigation by Roy and his team, paralleled by one conducted by Daly and his son, Lucas. It leads to some intriguing developments, as the perpetrators turn up either murdered or beaten. Two incidental themes intertwine the plot: Roy is now married to his present love, Cleo, after his ex-wife’s disappearance more than ten years earlier, and they have a new baby boy, but the fate of his ex remains a conundrum; and a particularly nasty man Roy had sent to a long term in prison is released, vowing to take revenge. Written in a lively manner in the author’s trademark short chapters, the story moves back and forth between and among the characters, which are thoroughly developed. The plot is clever, and once again, Brighton provides an appealing backdrop to the story, supplemented by the streets of New York City, which sets the stage for both the beginning and end of the book. Recommended.
However abit disappointed with the backstory of Roy Grace . Thought there would be more development with his wife sandy . However the front story was excellent and breezed through with eager anticipation. Hopefully next book will be out soon as i am hooked on this series!!
The Roy Grace series is one of the best. The way the charactors and locations are intertwined make this series a realistic feel.