Dead Simple (Roy Grace Series #1)

Dead Simple (Roy Grace Series #1)

by Peter James

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Dead Simple is the stunning first novel in the number one bestselling Roy Grace series from award-winning author, Peter James.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace's first major case is one he'll ever forget.

It was meant to be a harmless stag-night prank. But a few hours later, the groom has disappeared
and his friends are dead.

With only three days to the wedding, Grace is contacted by the man’s distraught fiancée to unearth what happened on that fateful night.

Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know of the groom’s whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot more to gain than anyone realizes, for one man’s disaster is another man’s fortune . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780330462716
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 09/04/2008
Series: Roy Grace Series , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 546
Sales rank: 96,562
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Peter James is a UK number one bestselling author, best known for writing crime and thriller novels, and the creator of the much-loved Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Globally, his books have been translated into thirty-seven languages.

Synonymous with plot-twisting page-turners, Peter has garnered an army of loyal fans throughout his storytelling career – which also included stints writing for TV and producing films. He has won over forty awards for his work, including the WHSmith Best Crime Author of All Time Award, Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger and a BAFTA nomination for The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons for which he was an Executive Producer. Many of Peter’s novels have been adapted for film, TV and stage.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

So far, apart from just a couple of hitches, Plan A was working out fine. Which was fortunate, since they didn't really have a Plan B.

At 8.30 on a late May evening, they'd banked on having some daylight. There had been plenty of the stuff this time yesterday, when four of them had made the same journey, taking with them an empty coffin and four shovels. But now, as the white Transit van sped along the Sussex country road, misty rain was falling from a sky the colour of a fogged negative.

'Are we nearly there yet?' said Josh in the back, mimicking a child.

'The great Um Ga says, "Wherever I go there I am," responded Robbo, who was driving, and was slightly less drunk than the rest of them. With three pubs notched up already in the past hour and a half, and four more on the itinerary, he was sticking to shandy. At least, that had been his intention; but he'd managed to slip down a couple of pints of pure Harvey's bitter - to clear his head for the task of driving, he'd said.

'So we are there!' said Josh.

'Always have been.'

A deer warning sign flitted from the darkness then was gone, as the headlights skimmed glossy black-top macadam stretching ahead into the forested distance. Then they passed a small white cottage.

Michael, lolling on a tartan rug on the floor in the back of the van, head wedged between the arms of a wheel-wrench for a pillow, was feeling very pleasantly woozy. 'I sh'ink I need another a drink,' he slurred.

If he'd had his wits about him, he might have sensed, from the expressions of his friends, that something was not quite right. Never usually much of a heavy drinker, tonight he'd parked his brains in the dregs of more empty pint glasses and vodka chasers than he could remember downing, in more pubs than had been sensible to visit.

Of the six of them who had been muckers together since way back into their early teens, Michael Harrison had always been the natural leader. If, as they say, the secret of life is to choose your parents wisely, Michael had ticked plenty of the right boxes. He had inherited his mother's fair good looks and his father's charm and entrepreneurial spirit, but without any of the self-destruct genes that had eventually ruined the man.

From the age of twelve, when Tom Harrison had gassed himself in the garage of the family home, leaving behind a trail of debtors, Michael had grown up fast, helping his mother make ends meet by doing a paper round, then when he was older by taking labouring jobs in his holidays. He grew up with an appreciation of how hard it was to make money - and how easy to fritter it.

Now, at twenty-eight, he was smart, a decent human being, and a natural leader of the pack. If he had flaws, they were that he was too trusting and on occasions, too much of a prankster. And tonight that latter chicken was coming home to roost. Big time.

But at this moment he had no idea of that.

He drifted back again into a blissful stupor, thinking only happy thoughts, mostly about his fiancée, Ashley. Life was good. His mother was dating a nice guy, his kid brother had just got into university, his kid sister Carly was backpacking in Australia on a gap year, and his business was going incredibly well. But best of all, in three days' time he was going to be marrying the woman he loved. And adored. His soul mate.


He hadn't noticed the shovel that rattled on every bump in the road, as the wheels drummed below on the sodden tarmac, and the rain pattered down above him on the roof. And he didn't clock a thing in the expressions of his two friends riding along with him in the back, who were swaying and singing tunelessly to an oldie, Rod Stewart's 'Sailing', on the crackly radio up front. A leaky fuel can filled the van with the stench of petrol.

'I love her,' Michael slurred. 'I sh'love Ashley.'

'She's a great lady,' Robbo said, turning his head from the wheel, sucking up to him as he always did. That was in his nature. Awkward with women, a bit clumsy, a florid face, lank hair, beer belly straining the weave of his T-shirt, Robbo hung to the coat tails of this bunch by always trying to make himself needed. And tonight, for a change, he actually was needed.

'She is.'

'Coming up,' warned Luke.

Robbo braked as they approached the turn-off and winked in the darkness of the cab at Luke seated next to him. The wipers clumped steadily, smearing the rain across the windscreen.

'I mean, like I really love her. Sh'now what I mean?'

'We know what you mean,' Pete said.

Josh, leaning back against the driver's seat, one arm around Pete, swigged some beer, then passed the bottle down to Michael. Froth rose from the neck as the van braked sharply. He belched. ''Scuse me.'

'What the hell does Ashley see in you?' Josh said.

'My dick.'

'So it's not your money? Or your looks? Or your charm?'

'That too, Josh, but mostly my dick.'

The van lurched as it made the sharp right turn, rattling over a cattle grid, almost immediately followed by a second one, and onto the dirt track. Robbo, peering through the misted glass, picking out the deep ruts, swung the wheel. A rabbit sprinted ahead of them, then shot into some undergrowth. The headlights veered right then left, fleetingly colouring the dense conifers that lined the track, before they vanished into darkness in the rear-view mirror. As Robbo changed down a gear, Michael's voice changed, his bravado suddenly tinged, very faintly, with anxiety.

'Where we going?'

'To another pub.'

'OK. Great.' Then a moment later, 'Promished Ashley I shwouldn't - wouldn't - drink too much.'

'See,' Pete said, 'you're not even married and she's laying down rules. You're still a free man. For just three more days.'

'Three and a half,' Robbo added, helpfully.

'You haven't arranged any girls?' Michael said.

'Feeling horny?' Robbo asked.

'I'm staying faithful.'

'We're making sure of that.'


The van lurched to a halt, reversed a short distance, then made another right turn. Then it stopped again, and Robbo killed the engine - and Rod Stewart with it. 'Arrivé!' he said. 'Next watering hole! The Undertaker's Arms!'

'I'd prefer the Naked Thai Girl's Legs,' Michael said.

'She's here too.'

Someone opened the rear door of the van, Michael wasn't sure who. Invisible hands took hold of his ankles. Robbo took one of his arms, and Luke the other.


'You're a heavy bastard!' Luke said.

Moments later Michael thumped down, in his favourite sports jacket and best jeans (not the wisest choice for your stag night, a dim voice in his head was telling him) onto sodden earth, in pitch darkness which was pricked only by the red tail lights of the van and the white beam of a flashlight. Hardening rain stung his eyes and matted his hair to his forehead.

'My - closhes-'

Moments later, his arms yanked almost clear of their sockets, he was hoisted in the air, then dumped down into something dry and lined with white satin that pressed in on either side of him.

'Hey!' he said again.

Four drunken, grinning shadowy faces leered down at him. A magazine was pushed into his hands. In the beam of the flashlight he caught a blurry glimpse of a naked redhead with gargantuan breasts. A bottle of whisky, a small flashlight, switched on, and a walkie-talkie were placed on his stomach.


A piece of foul-tasting rubber tubing was pushing into his mouth. As Michael spat it out, he heard a scraping sound, then suddenly something blotted the faces out. And blotted all the sound out. His nostrils filled with smells of wood, new cloth and glue. For an instant he felt warm and snug. Then a flash of panic.

'Hey, guys - what-'

Robbo picked up a screwdriver, as Pete shone the flashlight down on the teak coffin.

'You're not screwing it down?' Luke said.

'Absolutely!' Pete said.

'Do you think we should?'

'He'll be fine,' Robbo said. 'He's got the breathing tube!'

'I really don't think we should screw it down!'

''Course we do - otherwise he'll be able to get out!'

'Hey-' Michael said.

But no one could hear him now. And he could hear nothing except a faint scratching sound above him.

Robbo worked on each of the four screws in turn. It was a top-of-the-range hand-tooled teak coffin with embossed brass handles, borrowed from his uncle's funeral parlour, where, after a couple of career U-turns, he was now employed as an apprentice embalmer. Good, solid brass screws. They went in easily.

Michael looked upwards, his nose almost touching the lid. In the beam of the flashlight, ivory-white satin encased him. He kicked out with his legs, but they had nowhere to travel. He tried to push his arms out. But they had nowhere to go, either.

Sobering for a few moments, he suddenly realized what he was lying in.

'Hey, hey, listen, you know - hey - I'm claustrophobic - this is not funny! Hey!' His voice came back at him, strangely muffled.

Pete opened the door, leaned into the cab, and switched on the headlights. A couple of metres in front of them was the grave they had dug yesterday, the earth piled to one side, tapes already in place. A large sheet of corrugated iron and two of the spades they had used lay close by.

The four friends walked to the edge and peered down. All of them were suddenly aware that nothing in life is ever quite as it seems when you are planning it. This hole right now looked deeper, darker, more like - well - a grave, actually.

The beam of the flashlight shimmered at the bottom.

'There's water,' Josh said.

'Just a bit of rainwater,' Robbo said.

Josh frowned. 'There's too much, that's not rainwater. We must have hit the water table.'

'Shit,' Pete said. A BMW salesman, he always looked the part, on duty or off. Spiky haircut, sharp suit, always confident. But not quite so confident now.

'It's nothing,' Robbo said. 'Just a couple of inches.'

'Did we really dig it this deep?' said Luke, a freshly qualified solicitor, recently married, not quite ready to shrug off his youth, but starting to accept life's responsibilities.

'It's a grave, isn't it?' said Robbo. 'We decided on a grave.'

Josh squinted up at the worsening rain. 'What if the water rises?

'Shit, man,' Robbo said. 'We dug it yesterday, it's taken twenty-four hours for just a couple of inches. Nothing to worry about.'

Josh nodded, thoughtfully. 'But what if we can't get him back out?'

'Course we can get him out,' Robbo said. 'We just unscrew the lid.'

'Let's just get on with it,' Luke said. 'OK?'

'He bloody deserves it,' Pete reassured his mates. 'Remember what he did on your stag night, Luke?'

Luke would never forget. Waking from an alcoholic stupor to find himself on a bunk on the overnight sleeper to Edinburgh. Arriving forty minutes late at the altar the next afternoon as a result.

Pete would never forget, either. The weekend before his wedding, he'd found himself in frilly lace underwear, a dildo strapped to his waist, manacled to the Clifton Gorge suspension bridge, before being rescued by the fire brigade. Both pranks had been Michael's idea.

'Typical of Mark,' Pete said. 'Jammy bastard. He's the one who organized this and now he isn't bloody here . . .'

'He's coming. He'll be at the next pub, he knows the itinerary.'

'Oh yes?'

'He rang, he's on his way.'

'Fogbound in Leeds. Great!' Robbo said.

'He'll be at the Royal Oak by the time we get there.'

'Jammy bastard,' Luke said. 'He's missing out on all the hard work.'

'And the fun!' Pete reminded him.

'This is fun?' Luke said. 'Standing in the middle of a sodding forest in the pissing rain? Fun? God, you're sad! He'd fucking better turn up to help us get Michael back out.'

They hefted the coffin up in the air, staggered forward with it to the edge of the grave and dumped it down, hard, over the tapes. Then giggled at the muffled 'Ouch!' from within it.

There was a loud thump.

Michael banged his fist against the lid. 'Hey! Enough!'

Pete, who had the walkie-talkie in his coat pocket, pulled it out and switched it on. 'Testing!' he said. 'Testing!'

Inside the coffin, Pete's voice boomed out. 'Testing! Testing!'

'Joke over!'

'Relax, Michael!' Pete said. 'Enjoy!'

'You bastards! Let me out! I need a piss!'

Pete switched the walkie-talkie off and jammed it into the pocket of his Barbour jacket. 'So how does this work, exactly?'

'We lift the tapes,' Robbo said. 'One each end.'

Pete dug the walkie-talkie out and switched it on. 'We're getting this taped, Michael!' Then he switched it off again.

The four of them laughed. Then each picked up an end of tape and took up the slack.

'One . . . two . . . three!' Robbo counted.

'Fuck, this is heavy!' Luke said, taking the strain and lifting.

Slowly, jerkily, listing like a stricken ship, the coffin sank down into the deep hole.

When it reached the bottom they could barely see it in the darkness.

Pete held the flashlight. In the beam they could make out the breathing tube sticking limply out of the drinking-straw-sized hole that had been cut in the lid.

Robbo grabbed the walkie-talkie. 'Hey, Michael, your dick's sticking out. Are you enjoying the magazine?'

'OK, joke over. Now let me out!'

'We're off to a pole-dancing club. Too bad you can't join us!' Robbo switched off the radio before Michael could reply. Then, pocketing it, he picked up a spade and began shovelling earth over the edge of the grave and roared with laughter as it rattled down on the roof of the coffin.

With a loud whoop Pete grabbed another shovel and joined in. For some moments both of them worked hard until only a few bald patches of coffin showed through the earth. Then these were covered. Both of them continued, the drink fuelling their work into a frenzy, until there was a good couple of feet of earth piled on top of the coffin. The breathing tube barely showed above it.

'Hey!' Luke said. 'Hey, stop that! The more you shovel on the more we're going to have to dig back out again in two hours' time.'

'It's a grave!' Robbo said. 'That's what you do with a grave, you cover the coffin!'

Luke grabbed the spade from him. 'Enough!' he said, firmly. 'I want to spend the evening drinking, not bloody digging, OK?'

Robbo nodded, never wanting to upset anyone in the group. Pete, sweating heavily, threw his spade down. 'Don't think I'll take this up as a career,' he said.

They pulled the corrugated iron sheet over the top, then stood back in silence for some moments. Rain pinged on the metal.

'OK,' Pete said. 'We're outta here.'

Luke dug his hands into his coat pocket, dubiously. 'Are we really sure about this?'

'We agreed we were going to teach him a lesson,' Robbo said.

'What if he chokes on his vomit, or something?'

'He'll be fine, he's not that drunk,' Josh said. 'Let's go.'

Josh climbed into the rear of the van, and Luke shut the doors. Then Pete, Luke and Robbo squeezed into the front, and Robbo started the engine. They drove back down the track for half a mile, then made a right turn onto the main road.

Then he switched on the walkie-talkie. 'How you doing, Michael?'

'Guys, listen, I'm really not enjoying this joke.'

'Really?' Robbo said. 'We are!'

Luke took the radio. 'This is what's known as pure vanilla revenge, Michael!'

All four of them in the van roared with laughter. Now it was Josh's turn. 'Hey, Michael, we're going to this fantastic club, they have the most beautiful women, butt naked, sliding their bodies up and down poles. You're going to be really pissed you're missing out on this!'

Michael's voice slurred back, just a tad plaintive. 'Can we stop this now, please? I'm really not enjoying this.'

Through the windscreen Robbo could see roadworks ahead, with a green light. He accelerated.

Luke shouted over Josh's shoulder, 'Hey, Michael, just relax, we'll be back in a couple of hours!'

'What do you mean, a couple of hours?'

The light turned red. Not enough time to stop. Robbo accelerated even harder and shot through. 'Gimme the thing,' he said, grabbing the radio and steering one-handed around a long curve. He peered down in the ambient glow of the dash and hit the talk button.

'Hey, Michael-'

'ROBBO!' Luke's voice, screaming.

Headlights above them, coming straight at them.

Blinding them.

Then the blare of a horn, deep, heavy duty, ferocious.


Robbo stamped in panic on the brake pedal and dropped the walkie-talkie. The wheel yawed in his hands as he looked, desperately, for somewhere to go. Trees to his right, a JCB to his left, headlights burning through the windscreen, searing his eyes, coming at him out of the teeming rain, like a train.

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Dead Simple (Roy Grace Series #1) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 195 reviews.
NancyT More than 1 year ago
I love to read mysteries and thrillers..and this was one thriller that stood out over the rest. Great characters, great story with plenty of twists and turns...and you won't be able to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a really great book. Once I started reading it I literally couldn't put it down. Excellent story with some surprising twists and turns. Great characters. Excellent dialogue. An absolute must. If your looking for a great thriller, look no further. Can't wait for another novel with Detective Superintendent Grace. Bloody well done Peter James. Keep up the good work.
carbs_reader More than 1 year ago
An interesting and intriquing book that will keep the reader interested in picking up the next in the series. Oops! there isn't one because it's not available through B&N. How could you give us books number 1 and number 5 in the series but forget 2-4. Come on B&N get with it. Get us interested in a great detective series and offer all the books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book with an unusual twist at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good read. Enjoyable and interesting.
wildcatSP More than 1 year ago
Just loved this book!! I had to put the book down during the first couple of chapters because it made me nervous! I loved books that are unpredictable, and this one was. Recommend this one to my Nook friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are missing sements all through out the book. It will stop in the middle of a sentence at the bottom of one page, and start in the middle of another sentence at the top of the next page. No way of knowing how much you missed. The story was good enough that I just kept reading anyway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book has a fairly unique plot twist in the first couple of chapters. Basically one last boys night out before the joker of the group walks down the marriage isle. Thos had all the makings of a great stag night. Best friends (unless you feel your best man is important) liquor, the must have beverage of the evening, and a well planned practical joke for the practical joke king. What could possibly go wrong? I found the storyline entertaining and enjoyed getting to look into the minds of the characters. The only thing I really disliked about the book was it was drawn out in places that didn't need more explanation. However I did find a twists here and there I didn't expect and I enjoyed a relaxing weekend reading the book. I will look for other titles by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my attention. Lots of twists and turns. First Peter James book. Will definately read another.
bambi748 More than 1 year ago
really enjoyed this book from 1st page. would of liked to of had more onto the ending
Kiki_Lourdes More than 1 year ago
From start to finish, no disappointment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By far one of the best reads in a long time. Kept me wondering through the night what was going to happen next and i definitely lost sleep wanting to keep reading. Real page turner and keeps you interested. I even gasped at some parts. I definitely recommend if you like murder mysteries and suspense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story, kept me reading. However many words mispelled all through the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fairly good mystery, liked the characters and would probably read another book in this series. Not a lite mystery, but a little more intense.
R_Jay More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and surprised myself by reading it all in only 3 days. The plot moved along nicely and there were only a few places where you knew what was going to happen next. The characters are developed enough to make them believable but not enough to bore you to tears. And there is a moral - don't be a prankster when your friends are drunks and hold a grudge :) Oh - and be sure to do a background check on your fiancee! I definitely recommend this book and I can't wait to read the next one by Peter James.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and hated when it came to the end. There are a lot of plot twists and turns and the characters are very believable. Excellent mystery and very thought provoking. It's like 'Fatal Attraction' for the 21st century. Don't pass this one up!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peter James gets your attention from the beginning . It was impossible for me to put this book down. Have read the others in the series, and it is worth it! Love the way he writes from different perspectives and uses short chapters to move the action along. I recommend him to all my friends who love British mysteries/police procedurals.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This thriller had me racing through the pages to get to the end. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Mr. James doesn't play any games with the reader, but still manages to give the plot plenty of twists. Roy Grace is an interesting and sympathetic character and I find myself wanting to read the next book in the series just to find out what happens next for him.
gogglemiss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a brisk no nonsense cracker. Sharply defined characters, kept this story on track at a brisk pace. Very exciting story. Will be reading more in this series.
Heptonj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent read. Superintendant Roy Grace has a job on his hands trying to work out why a young man out on his stag night is not involved in the accident that killed his companions. Where has he gone? And how is his oh so sweet fiance involved? There are many twists and turns to this plot which make exciting reading with a very satisfactory ending. A touch of the supernatural makes an interesting appearance but he shouldn't rely on these to cover problems that can't be solved logically.
xavierp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy a good mystery/thriller story and Peter James does not disappoint. This is the first in a new series by Peter James (I would have to say that the link is the word "Dead" since his second one is called "Looking Good Dead") and his characters are, in many ways, a breath of fresh air.The lead detective, DI Roy Grace is all too human. This is an experienced detective who is competent at his work - with flashes of brilliance - and knows how to see when someone lies. And this is something I may use myself. When we lie, we tend to look in the direction of our creative mind. When we tell the truth, we look in the opposite direction. Early on in interviews Grace will ask "What did you have for lunch?" and see which way the suspect looks. From then on he is aware that when the suspect (or witness) is lying, they will look the other way. This is a genius quirk, in my opinion, it's something we can all visualise and try out. Have fun, won't you :)Of course, no detective can be whole without some tragedy in their life - Grace's is that his wife disappeared from the face of the earth some years previously and he can't let her go even though it's likely that she's dead. The author gives us a real sense that the couple were indeed happy and that this blights Grace's life horribly. We care. Well, I do.The story is very simple but filled with the twists that we want - a man has a prank played on him at his stag do. He is buried in a coffin and told his friends will return in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, his friends are all killed in a road accident. Can the police find the missing man before it's too late? Very simple tale, expertly told. I recommend this book to fans of the genre.
dioritt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent! One of the best I've read in this genre for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sit down, strap in, and hold on...twists and turns from page one till done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please give Peter James a try
Anonymous More than 1 year ago