For L.A. producer Larry Brooker, this is the movie that could bring the fortune that has so long eluded him. For rock superstar Gaia, desperate to be taken seriously as an actor, this is the role that could get her an Oscar nomination. For the City of Brighton and Hove, the publicity value of a major Hollywood movie being filmed on location, about the city's greatest love story—between King George IV and Maria Fitzherbert—is incalculable. For Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of Sussex CID, it is a nightmare unfolding in front of his eyes. An obsessed stalker is after Gaia. One attempt on her life is made days before she leaves her Bel Air home to fly to Brighton. Now, he has been warned, the stalker may be at large in his city, waiting, watching, planning.
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
NOT DEAD YET (Chapter 1)
I am warning you, and I won't repeat this warning. Don't take the part. You'd better believe me. Take the part and you are dead. Bitch.
Gaia Lafayette was unaware of the man out in the dark, in the station wagon, who had come to kill her. And she was unaware of the email he had sent. She got hate mail all the time, mostly from religious nutters or folk upset by her swearing or her provocative costumes in some of her stage acts and music videos. Those emails were screened and kept from bothering her by her trusted head of security, Detroit-born Andrew Gulli, a tough ex-cop who'd spent most of his career on close protection work for vulnerable political figures.
He knew when to be worried enough to tell his boss, and this piece of trash that had come in, on an anonymous Hotmail account, was not something he figured had any substance. His employer got a dozen like this every week.
It was 10 p.m. and Gaia was trying to focus on the script she was reading, but she couldn't concentrate. She was focused even more on the fact that she had run out of cigarettes. The sweet, but oh so dim-witted Pratap, who did all her shopping, and who she hadn't the heart to fire because his wife had a brain tumour, had bought the wrong brand. She had her limit of four cigarettes a day, and didn't actually need any more, but old habits die hard. She used to mainline the damned things, claiming they were essential for her famed gravelly voice. Not so many years back she'd have one before she got out of bed, followed by one burning in the ashtray while she showered. Every action accompanied by a cigarette. Now she was kicking free, but she had to know they were in the house. Just in case she needed them.
Like so much else she needed in life. Starting with her adoring public. Checking the count of Twitter followers and Facebook likes. Both were substantially up again today, each nearly a million up in the past month alone, still keeping her well ahead of both the performers she viewed as her rivals, Madonna and Lady Gaga. And she now had nearly ten million subscribers to her monthly e-newsletter. And then there were her seven homes, of which this copy of a Tuscan palazzo, built five years ago to her specification on a three-acre lot, was the largest.
The walls, mirrored full length floor-to-ceiling to create the illusion of infinite space, were decorated with Aztec art interspersed with larger-than-life posters of herself. The house, like all her others, was a catalogue of her different incarnations. Gaia had reinvented herself constantly throughout her career as a rock star, and more recently, two years ago at thirty-five, had started reinventing herself again, this time as a movie actor.
Above her head was a huge, framed monochrome signed photo of herself in a black negligee, titled WORLD TOUR GAIA SAVING THE PLANET. Another, with her wearing a tank top and leather jeans, was captioned, GAIA REVELATIONS TOUR. Above the fireplace, in dramatic green was a close-up of her lips, nose and eyes - GAIA UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL.
Her agent and her manager phoned her daily, both men reassuring her just how much the world needed her. Just the way that her growing social networking base - all outsourced by her management company - reassured her, too. And at this moment, the one person in the world she cared about most - Roan, her six-year-old son - needed her just as much. He padded barefoot across the marble floor, in his Armani Junior pyjamas, his brown hair all mussed up, his face scrunched in a frown, and tapped her on the arm as she lay on the white sofa, propped against the purple velvet cushions. 'Mama, you didn't come and read me a story.'
She stretched out a hand and mussed up his hair some more. Then she put down the script and took him in her arms, hugging him. 'I'm sorry, sweetie. It's late, way past your bedtime, and Mama's really busy tonight, learning her lines. She has a really big part - see? Mama's playing Maria Fitzherbert, the mistress of an English king! King George the Fourth.'
Maria Fitzherbert was the diva of her day, in Regency England. Just like she herself was the diva of her day now, and they had something profound in common. Maria Fitzherbert spent most of her life in Brighton, in England. And she, Gaia, had been born in Brighton! She felt a connection to this woman, across time. She was born to play this role!
Her agent said this was the new King's Speech. An Oscar role, no question. And she wanted an Oscar oh so badly. The first two movies she had made were okay, but had not set the world on fire. In hindsight, she realized, it was because she hadn't chosen well and the scripts were - frankly - weak. This movie now could give her the critical acclaim she craved. She'd fought hard for this role. And she'd succeeded.
Hell, you had to fight in life. Fortune favoured the brave. Some people were born with silver spoons so far up their assholes they stuck in their gullets, and some, like herself, were born on the wrong side of the tracks. It had been a long journey to here, through her early days of waiting tables, and two husbands, to the place she was now at, and where she felt comfortable. Just herself, Roan and Todd, the fitness instructor who gave her great sex when she needed it and kept out of her face when she didn't, and her trusted entourage, Team Gaia.
She picked up the script and showed him the white and the blue pages. 'Mama has to learn all this before she flies to England.'
'Didn't Steffie read to you tonight?' Steffie was the nanny.
He looked forlorn. 'You read better. I like it when you read.'
She looked at her watch. 'It's after ten o'clock. Way past your bedtime!'
'I can't sleep. I can't sleep unless you read to me, Mama.'
She tossed the script on to the glass coffee table, lifted him down and stood up. 'Okay, one quick story. Okay?'
His face brightened. He nodded vigorously.
'Marla!' she shouted. 'Marla!'
Her assistant came into the room, cellphone pressed to her ear, arguing furiously with someone about what sounded like the seating arrangements on a plane. The one extravagance Gaia refused to have was a private jet, because of her concerns over her carbon footprint.
Marla was shouting. Didn't the fuckwit airline know who Gaia was? That she could fucking make or break them? She was wearing glittery Versace jeans tucked into black alligator boots, a thin black roll-neck and a gold neck chain carrying the flat gold globe engraved Planet Gaia. It was exactly the same way her boss was dressed tonight. Her hair mirrored her boss's, too: blonde, shoulder length, layered in a sharp razor cut with a carefully spaced and waxed fringe.
Gaia Lafayette insisted that all her staff had to dress the same way - following the daily emailed instructions of what she would be wearing, how her hair would be. They had, at all times, to be an inferior copy of herself.
Marla ended the call. 'Sorted!' she said. 'They've agreed to bump some people off the flight.' She gave Gaia an angelic smile. 'Because it's you!'
'I need cigarettes,' Gaia said. 'Wanna be an angel and go get me some?'
Marla shot a surreptitious glance at her watch. She had a date tonight and was already two hours late for him, thanks to Gaia's demands - nothing unusual. No previous personal assistant had lasted more than eighteen months before being fired, yet, amazingly, she was entering her third year. It was hard work and long hours, and the pay wasn't great, but the work experience was to die for, and although her boss was tough, she was kind. One day she'd be free of the chains, but not yet. 'Sure, no problem,' she said.
'Take the Merc.'
It was a balmy hot night. Gaia was smart enough to understand the small perks that went a long way.
'Cool! I'll be right back. Anything else?'
Gaia shook her head. 'You can keep the car for the night.'
'Sure, I'm not going anywhere.'
Marla coveted the silver SL55 AMG. She looked forward to driving the fast bends along Sunset to the convenience store. Then to picking up Jay in it afterwards. Who knew how the night might turn out? Every day working for Gaia was an adventure. Just as every night recently, since she had met Jay, was too! He was a budding actor, and she was determined to find a way, through her connection with Gaia, to help him get a break.
She did not know it, but as she walked out to the Mercedes, she was making a grave mistake.
NOT DEAD YET Copyright © 2012 by Really Scary Books / Peter James.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a tale of obsession, in all its infinite variety and manifestations, some more lethal than others but mostly just a matter of degree, with neither gender being excluded from its clutches. There are enough seriously disturbed characters here to populate several novels, in a few different story lines. The main plot deals with the discovery of an unidentifiable body whose headless, armless and legless torso is discovered on a chicken farm in East Sussex. As if that isn’t enough, the area is faced with an at once wonderful and problematic event: a major American superstar [think Lady Gaga, in fact the fictional counterpart is named Gaia] is about to arrive from Los Angeles, with her entourage and film crew, to Brighton, England, the city where she was born, to star in a film which will chronicle the love affair between King George the Fourth and his mistress Maria Fitzherbert. Needless to say, her hordes of obsessed fans converge on the city as well. A second story line revolves around another obsessive, the target of this one none other than DS Roy Grace, in charge of the Major Crime Branch of Sussex CID. But a resolution, if any, of that one awaits a successive novel, I suspect. The personal lives of Grace and of Glenn Branson, to whom Grace is a mentor, get a lot of the focus in this, the eighth series entry, as Grace’s fiancée, Cleo, is in her last month of pregnancy, and Branson, who has become a “long-stay lodger” in Grace’s house since the latter moved in with Cleo, is facing child custody problems in the aftermath of his now-dead “marriage-from-hell.” Cavil: It bothered me when, as happened frequently, the p.o.v. jumped around, sometimes without identifying the person from whose point of view the chapter was being told. I assume this was intentional, but it was somewhat disconcerting. As well, I felt that perhaps the first two-thirds of the book was somewhat bloated and repetitive, causing this reader’s attention to wander, a first for any of this author’s books. No wandering attention in the approximately last third of the book, I hasten to add, when the plot lines start to come together with more than one climactic scene, with a finish you’ll never see coming. All in all, it is recommended.
Right before megastar Gaia travels to England for a big movie role, her look-alike assistant is murdered outside Gaia's gate. Once she's in England the police are assigned to protect her, which should be normally a formality, but it seems that someone IS out to kill her. Detective Roy Grace heads up the team, and tries to keep Gaia safe while tracking down suspects—is it the guy who thinks his actress girlfriend should have gotten Gaia's role in the film? Or maybe it's the obsessed woman who collects Gaia memorabilia and calls herself Gaia's Number One Fan? What about the guy who believes that HE had the idea for the movie first and it has been stolen from him? And what about the reporter who seems to have a snitch in the department—he keeps publishing articles with information that the police want to keep close to the vest. The plot was clever, the characters were engaging, and the end was really exciting—I found myself reading faster and faster to find out what happened! Very pleased to find out that this is a series, and plan to read the rest as soon as possible!
New role play.
Too many characters. Too much detail. Reads like a police manual and a tour guide to brighton england. Relationships that have nothing to do with the plot. The last 6 chapters were not relavent to the plot. This book could have been written in 300 pages.
These books in Peter James Roy Grace series just keep getting better and better. I am constantly surprised with added twists to the storyline that are an ongoing developing plot in all the books in the series.
This is my first Peter James novel. Usually I would feel lost if I started with the eighth book in a series, but James was able to get me up to speed on Roy Grace and his team of police men and women that I never felt like I walking into the middle of the story. James’ novel has so many interesting story lines that you start peeling them away one-by-one looking for the connection long before James is ready to give you answers. Clearly James knows how to work the tension machine and I found myself staying up late several nights because I just had to finish one more chapter – which would turn into another hundred pages. In Not Dead Yet, Grace has his hands full protecting a Lady Gaga-like rock star turned actress who is filming a movie at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton as well as investigating a murder of an Unknown Berwick male at a chicken farm. While Grace is trying to sell the house he lived in with his first wife who disappeared ten years ago and who Grace is working to have legally declared dead, he is also awaiting the birth of his child with his soon-to-be second wife Cleo. Grace is so happy with his home life except that someone is leaving them threatening messages. While the mystery story is captivating and the crime thrilling, Not Dead Yet is a UK police novel. I struggled not knowing the lingo for all the police divisions at first. However I was so very pleased when James responded almost immediately to a Twitter post and supplied me with a wonderful site that enabled me to look up all the police acronyms found in his book. James replied that he might have to put a glossary in his next book. I might also ask if he could put a police directory in his books as well. It became very clear to me from reading the acknowledgements that James has done his homework with police procedures. Operation Icon required about thirty plus police officers and consultants by my rough estimate. James did a good job to describe how a good number of these officers contribute to solving a murder case. But as a reader, I found it difficult to remember all the experts and officers who basically had a walk-on into a scene and might never be heard from again for fifty or a hundred pages. I thought to myself, if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a city to find a murderer. I’m the type that likes to have the phone book handy to so I can look up what someone’s role is in an instant. (Or maybe I’m just not that experienced with police dramas and I need to learn more about who does what.) What I do know is that I’m hooked on Roy Grace. I might have started on the eighth book but I’ll be getting the first book and keeping up with this series.
When it comes to crime novels, there’s not much I like more than a British police procedural and the Roy James series is among the more accessible, meaning easy to read and absorb. I’m glad to say that Not Dead Yet is a welcome successor to the previous books even though I found it just a little too long. Having to protect a visiting American celebrity, Gaia, is bad enough but Detective Superintendant Roy Grace soon finds that this is not just a babysitting job when it becomes obvious that a lot of people hate this woman, perhaps enough to do her real harm. While that’s going on, a torso found in East Sussex proves to be difficult to identify without any of the usual methods involving fingerprints, facial reconstruction and so forth and, when they finally do identify the victim, the possible connection to Gaia is alarming. Meanwhile, at home, Roy and his fiancee, Cleo, are expecting a baby at any moment and Detective Sergeant Glenn Branson has his own troubles with a problematic marriage but may finally have his shot at being lead inspector. The numerous story arcs and characters occasionally become a little overwhelming but Mr. James neatly entwines them to make a coherent and engaging tale full of distractions and puzzles; all the twists and turns kept me turning pages long into the night. By this point in the series, I’m emotionally invested in Roy and the people in his life—although I find Cleo a bit boring and I’m tired of ex-wife Sandy—and Not Dead Yet makes me even more eager to continue with the next book, Dead Man’s Time.