The last words Jamie Ball hears from his fiancée, Logan Somerville, are in a terrified mobile phone call. She has just driven into the underground car park beneath the block of flats where they live in Brighton. Then she screams and the phone goes dead. The police are on the scene within minutes, but Logan has vanished, leaving behind her neatly parked car and mobile phone. That same afternoon, workmen digging up a park in another part of the city, unearth the remains of a woman in her early twenties, who has been dead for 30 years. At first, to Roy Grace and his team, these two events seem totally unconnected. But then another young woman in Brighton goes missing—and yet another body from the past surfaces. Meanwhile, an eminent London psychiatrist meets with a man who claims to know information about Logan. And Roy Grace has the chilling realization that this information holds the key to both the past and present crimes. Does Brighton have its first serial killer in over 80 years?
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.
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You are Dead
By Peter James
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Really Scary Books/Peter James
All rights reserved.
Thursday 11 December
Logan was driving fast in the pelting rain, hurrying home, glad that her shitty day, which had gone from bad to worse, and then progressively worse still, was nearly at an end. She was looking forward to a large glass of chilled white wine and a sneaky cigarette on the balcony before Jamie got home. The familiar Radio Sussex jingle played, then the female presenter announced it was 5:30 p.m. and time for the news headlines. As Logan listened, with half an ear, she was blissfully unaware that by this time tomorrow evening she would be the lead item on the local news, and the subject of one of the biggest manhunts ever launched by Sussex Police.
Her catalog of disasters had started as she had got out of bed, late for work, with a splitting headache after a tiresome dinner with clumsy, untidy Jamie and tripped over a boot he'd left on the carpet. She'd stumbled forward, gashing her big toe open on the edge of the bathroom door. She should have gone to hospital, but she couldn't spare the time for the inevitable wait at A&E, so she'd bandaged it herself and hoped for the best.
Then to add insult to injury she had been flashed by the same damned speed camera she had driven past every working day for the past few years, at a careful 32 mph. Somehow, today, in her rush to get to work for her first appointment she had totally forgotten it was there, and had gone past it at well over 45 mph.
The gilding on the lily came when one of her partners in the chiropractic clinic — the woman who brought in the largest share of their income — announced she was pregnant with triplets, and intended if all went well to be a full-time mum. Without her income stream, the future of the place could be in doubt.
Overshadowing all of that were her concerns about Jamie. He stubbornly refused to accept anything was wrong. But there was; there was so much wrong. His untidiness, which at first had amused her, had grown to irritate her beyond belief — especially when he'd told her crassly that it was a woman's role to keep the home tidy.
So she had tidied up. She'd scooped up all the clothes that he had left lying on the floor, and his beer cans and dirty beer glasses — left after a bunch of his friends had come round to watch the footy — and dumped them down the rubbish chute in the corridor of their flat.
She was grinning in satisfaction at the memory as she indicated right, braked, then halted her car at the entrance to the underground car park beneath their apartment block in Brighton's Kemp Town. She pressed the clicker to open the electric gates.
Then, as she drove down the ramp, she was startled by a figure lurking in the darkness. She stamped her foot hard on the brake pedal.CHAPTER 2
Thursday 11 December
Within seconds of answering the phone to his fiancée, Jamie Ball sensed something was wrong.
The connection was bad as he drove his battered old VW Golf down the M23 toward Brighton in the heavy rush-hour traffic and pelting rain, and it was hard to hear what she was saying; but even through the crackly line, he could hear the unease in her voice.
"Are you OK, darling?" he asked.
"No," she said. "No, I'm not."
"What is it?"
"There's a man down here in the car park. I just saw him. He tried to hide as I drove in."
Neither of them liked that underground car park beneath their apartment block. Their small ninth-floor flat, close to Brighton's Royal Sussex County Hospital in Kemp Town, had views to die for, across the rooftops and far out into the English Channel, but the car park always gave them the creeps.
It was poorly lit with many totally dark areas, and there was only minimal security. Several vehicles lay beneath dust sheets and never appeared to be moved. Sometimes, when he drove down there, Jamie felt he was entering a mausoleum. If Logan arrived home on her own late at night, she preferred to park on the street and risk a ticket in the morning rather than go down there in the dark.
He had repeatedly warned Logan to make sure the electronic gates had closed behind her before driving on down the ramp. Now the scenario he had always feared seemed to be happening.
"OK, darling," he said. "Listen to me. Lock your doors, turn around, and drive straight back out."
She did not reply.
"Logan, did you hear me?"
He heard her scream.
A terrible scream.
Then silence.CHAPTER 3
Thursday 11 December
Felix is fine with the fact that I kill people. He gets it, he understands my reasons. I have a sneaking feeling he'd like to do the same himself, if he had more courage. Harrison's not so sure about the whole moral issue here. As for Marcus — well, really he's dead against it — no pun intended. He thinks I'm a bad person. But hey, it's good to have smart friends who have opinions, and aren't afraid to express them. Personally, I've always respected people who speak their mind.
They say a true friend is someone who knows everything about you, and still likes you, but I would question that unconditional aspect of friendship. We need friends to keep checks and balances on us, to help each of us keep our perspectives, our moral compass. But I have to say that Marcus is wrong. I'm not really a bad person, I'm just a victim. All of us in life, all of us are victims. We're all prisoners of our past, in some form. Our past defines us in ways that are not always obvious. It's only later, on occasion, when you read something that touches a nerve, or your therapist points out some connection you had never made. That's when you have the light-bulb moment. When suddenly it all makes sense. And you can justify everything.
I've just started my next project. She's a young lady in her mid-twenties, slim, pretty, with long brown hair — the way I like all my projects to look. I've been following her for the past three months — from a distance mostly, but also on her Facebook page and through her tweets. I like to make a thorough study of my projects, working out the best way to take them, then thinking about what I'm going to do with them. It's the anticipation that really gives me the bang. It's like going online and looking at the menu of some great restaurant I plan to eat in. My beautiful dossiers.
Logan is quite a girl. She's fit, in every sense. Runs marathons, was due to get married, though that's not going to happen now — and that's nothing to do with me. But that all helps me, navigating by my moral compass. She can't treat men the way she has.
She needs punishing.CHAPTER 4
Thursday 11 December
In summer, Hove Lagoon, a children's park and playground with two large boating ponds, a skate park and a children's paddling pool, behind the seafront promenade lined with gaily painted beach huts, would be teeming with people. Children, under the watchful eyes of mothers, grandparents, au pairs or nannies, would be playing on the roundabouts, slides and swings, or in the little pool, or sailing their toy boats on one of the two rectangular ponds that gave the place its name, and that they shared with learner dinghy sailors, windsurfers and wakeboarders.
Many would be stuffing their faces with ice creams or sweets purchased from the Big Beach Café, its utilitarian whitewashed walls, blue windows and steeply pitched roof belying its uber-cool cocktail bar and diner interior — the inspiration of its latest owner, Big Beat musician Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim.
But in the gloom of this foul December Thursday afternoon, with cold rain pelting down, and a strong, gusting wind, the whole place was forlorn and cheerless. A solitary elderly lady, in a see-through sou'wester, walked a reluctant dog, the size of a large rat, on a lead attached to a harness.
A group of workmen in fluorescent jackets, hard hats and ear defenders, working overtime beneath floodlights, were drilling open the path in front of the café. One, the foreman, stood away from the group, head bowed against the weather, holding up a tablet in a waterproof case, taking measurements and tapping them in. A cluster of cars and a van were parked nearby, as well as a noisy, yellow mobile generator.
As his drill bit broke through a fresh strip, and he levered it out of the way, one workman suddenly shouted out, in a foreign accent, "Oh God! Look!" He turned anxiously toward the foreman. "Wesley! Look!"
Hearing his cry above the din of their machines, all the other workmen stopped, too. The foreman stepped forward and peered down, and saw what looked to his untrained eye like a skeletal hand.
"Is it an animal?" asked the workman.
"Dunno," the foreman said dubiously. Nor could he tell how old it was. It could have been there decades. But he couldn't think of any animal that had a paw or claw like this. Except a monkey, possibly. It looked human, he thought. He instructed all three men with the drills to concentrate on the immediate area around the hand, and to be careful not to drill deeper than necessary.
More chunks of the black asphalt were levered away and a skeletal arm appeared, attached to the hand by black tendrils of sinew. Then part of a rib cage and what was, unmistakably, a human skull.
"OK!" the foreman said nervously. "Everyone stop now. Go home and we start again in the morning, if we are permitted. See you all at eight a.m."
Wondering whether he should have stopped the men sooner, he went over to the van, opened the rear doors, then climbed in, rummaged around, and pulled out a tarpaulin. He laid it over the exposed parts of the skeleton, weighing it down with chunks of rubble. When he had finished, he unholstered his phone and dialed his boss, to ask for instructions. They came back loud and clear.
He ended the call, then, as he'd been told, immediately dialed 999. When the operator answered, he asked for the police.CHAPTER 5
Thursday 11 December
Shaking with fear, Jamie Ball pulled his Golf over onto the hard shoulder of the motorway, halted, and dialed Logan's number again. The phone rang, six times, and then he heard her voicemail message.
"Hi, this is Logan Somerville. I can't take your call right —"
He ended the call and immediately redialled. Answer, darling Logan, answer, please answer, please answer! Again it rang six times and her message started up. A lorry thundered past, inches from his little car, shaking it and spattering it with spray. He closed his eyes, thinking, feeling close to tears. He could call the caretaker, Mark. Or their next-door neighbor who had a key to their flat.
But he had heard her scream.
Something had happened.
His car shook again as another juggernaut thundered by, far too close.
He ended the call and immediately dialed 999.CHAPTER 6
Thursday 11 December
Some idiot, an hour or so ago, had mentioned the Q word. Just as in the theater world, where there was a deep superstition about mentioning the name of the play Macbeth — all thespians only ever referred to it as "the Scottish play" — so in the police world it was considered a jinx to say that a day was quiet. And sure enough, within minutes of the tubby, fully kitted constable breezing into the Communications Department of Sussex Police Headquarters to have a word with his wife, who was one of the radio controllers, and letting slip that Q word, it had all started kicking off, it seemed, right across the county. There was a sudden spate of three separate, serious road traffic collisions; an armed robbery in Brighton; a man threatening to jump off the notorious suicide beauty spot, Beachy Head; and a missing four-year-old boy in Crawley.
The Comms Department, which was housed in a very large, open-plan room on the first floor of a modern block on the sprawling HQ campus, handled all emergency calls made to Sussex Police throughout the county, and housed the CCTV system. It was presided over by Ops-1 — the call sign for the Duty Inspector in charge. Among the responsibilities of these inspectors was the granting of authority for use of firearms in a spontaneous incident, and running and controlling any vehicle pursuit in the county.
This afternoon and evening's Ops-1 was Andy Kille, a tall, strongly built, former British parachuting champion, in his early fifties, with a handsome face, etched cynical from almost thirty years of police service, and topped with a thin fuzz of close-cropped graying hair. Dressed in uniform dark trousers and a short-sleeved black top, with "Police" embroidered in white on the sleeves, his inspector pips on his epaulettes and his ID card hanging from his neck on a blue lanyard, he currently sported a substantial and uncharacteristic pot belly — the result of recently having given up smoking and compensating by binge eating.
Kille sat at his desk in a cubicle-like space at the rear of the room, surrounded by an array of computer screens and monitors. One displayed a map of the county. Another constantly updated him on all the incidents currently running. A third, with a touch-screen, operated as his eyes and ears on the department he presided over.
On the wall at the far end of the room were monitors that displayed the performance statistics, while over his desk a separate screen showed images from four of the five hundred CCTV cameras around the county, as well as monitors displaying the current news. With the aid of his different and separate keyboards and a toggle lever, Kille could rotate and zoom any of the cameras within seconds. Thirty people worked in this section, most of them civilians, identified by the white embroidered words "Police Support" on their sleeves, and royal blue polo shirts as opposed to the black ones of the police. Several were former police officers. At busy times there could be the best part of one hundred people working over the two levels.
At a row of desks beneath the CCTV cameras sat the radio operators, each, like almost everyone else in the room, wearing a headset. These were the people who liaised with the police officers who had been dispatched, both in vehicles and on foot. Most radio operators had a CCTV screen for the cameras on their particular area, when needed. Alongside them sat the emergency-call handlers. Emergency — 999 — calls were signaled by a low klaxon, so that in the rare instances all the call handlers were occupied, others in the room, also trained, would be alerted to answer.
Amy Wood, a placid, motherly, dark-haired woman, had twenty years of service answering emergency calls, and was one of the most experienced in the room. She loved this job, because you never knew what might happen in just ten seconds' time. And if there was one thing, above all else, she had learned, it was that whenever you thought you'd seen it all, you were always going to be in for another surprise. She never cared for Q days so she was always secretly glad when things kicked off. And how, in the past hour! She had answered calls from witnesses to two different road traffic accidents, a man whose girlfriend had been bitten by a neighbor's dog, someone in Bognor Regis who had just been dragged off his bicycle and seen it ridden away, and someone, who sounded off his face on drugs, complaining that a neighbor across the street kept photographing him.
The bane of her and her colleagues' work was the constant stream of hoax calls, and the even larger volume of calls from mentally ill people, around the clock. One particular elderly lady with dementia called fifteen times a day. It was a fact that twenty percent of all 999 calls for immediate police response were mental health issues.
She had one on the line right now. A young man, crying.
"I'm going to kill myself."
His hysterical voice was barely audible above the crackling roar of wind.
"Can you tell me where you are?" He was phoning from a mobile phone, and the location of the cell tower receiving and transmitting his signal showed up on her screen. It was in the town of Hastings and he could have been in any of a dozen streets.
"I don't think you can help me," he said. "I've got problems in my head."
"Where are you?" she asked him calmly and pleasantly.
"Rigger Road," he said and began blubbing. "No one understands me, yeah?"
As she spoke she was typing out a running incident log and instructions to a radio dispatcher.
"Can you tell me your name?"
There was a long silence. She heard what sounded like Dan. "Is your name Dan?"
The whole tone of his voice was worrying her. She completed her instructions with Grade One, which meant immediate response — and to be there within a maximum of fifteen minutes.
"So what's been happening this week to make you feel like this, Ben?"
"I've just never fitted in. I can't tell my mum what's wrong. I'm from Senegal. Came when I was ten. I've just never fitted in. People treat me different. I've got a knife, I'm going to cut my throat now."
"Please stay on the line for me, Ben, I have someone on their way to you. I'm staying on the line with you until they get to you."
A reply flashed back on her screen with the call sign of a police response car that had been allocated. She could see on the map the pink symbol of the police car, no more than half a mile from Rigger Road. The car suddenly jumped two blocks nearer.
Excerpted from You are Dead by Peter James. Copyright © 2015 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the 11th Roy Grace novel. I have read the first one and this one. The thing I like is that I was able to read and enjoy this book without having read the other 9. It is a very good, intriguing and gripping read. Once I got into the story, I wanted to finish to see who was responsible as well as what would happen to Roy and Cleo. On the same night a young woman is abducted, a decades old skeleton is unearthed under a path on the beach. Not immediately, but as the story unfolds, Roy begins to suspect that these events are linked. Many of the characters are from the earlier books and are introduced in a way that is not repetitious. The story quickly intensified which really kept my interest to the end, wanting to know how it would all work out. My heart just went out to poor Norman, grieving for his fiancé Bella and working as hard as possible to try and keep himself busy. I did realise who the culprit was relatively early in the story, but that did not decrease my interest. There were clues and comments given that enabled me to figure out who the perpetrator was. In the first book you find out that Roy Grace's wife Sandy disappeared 10 years earlier, and there are developments in this book about her that cause some speculation in the reader's mind about the marriage to Cleo and the mother of his baby boy, Noah. Apparently this story will be clearer in the next book. The book does finish on a bit of a cliffhanger, so if you prefer all the ends to be tied up in your thrillers, you will be disappointed.
The frightening case of a missing woman, a woman kidnapped from the car park underneath her house and more women going missing. This is bad enough but the man in charge, Roy Grace is having to deal with a problem closer to home. His first wife is still missing and this is something that understandably makes this case even more hard to deal with than it might be otherwise. When Roy notices the similarities between the two women, he starts to investigate but everything is made more difficult with his own emotional state. Can he protect women now as he failed to do so in the past (in his eyes). The setting is one of missing people and needing answers from the past, catching someone who is responsible for the fear that women in Brighton now have. And as for Logan, kidnapped and trapped in a small dark place makes this a dark Brighton where women are not safe and where even being on your own home turf, close to your home is not even safe. Peter James really does enjoy taking you to the dark side of Brighton. It's a lovely place really! But when he's your guide, you see the underbelly and then some. Every time I visit his Brighton, I know I'm in for some uncomfortable times but thrilling at the same time. Top notch crime and with a cliff hanger to match!
A must read.
It was inevitable: A serial killer, and a real psycho at that, in Brighton finally offers Detective Superintendent Roy Grace a challenge in the eleventh novel in this distinguished series. Called the Brighton Brander, his MO is to burn U R Dead on his victims’ right thighs after abducting them and keeping them encased in a coffin-like container for a period of time while he toys with them. What makes this plot more interesting is that the current wave of snatches may be related to murders many years before, discovered when workmen uncover a skeletons buried under a paved path being dug up. The ensuing police procedural, painstakingly described, a trademark of the author, follows Grace’s investigation, which characteristically combines minimal clues and maximum leaps of faith. Grace also is confronted with another conundrum: He is now married to his long-time girlfriend, Cleo, and has a young son, but a woman who turns up in a German hospital comatose after being struck by a taxi resembles Sandy, his wife who disappeared 10 years before. One drawback to an otherwise outstanding book is the conclusion, which, to these eyes at least, appears to be deliberately, but unnecessarily, manufactured, to provide the basis for the next volume. I would guess that Mr. James can create new plots and characters without regurgitating old ones. Be that as it may, the novel is nonetheless recommended.