A dozen years after the infamous Shoe Man victimized women with their pricey stiletto heels, a serial killer with the same MO is terrorizing Brighton, England. Is he the deranged original, a copycat—or both?
In the sixth installment in James' series featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (Dead Tomorrow, 2009, etc.), his protagonist has finally turned his life around. His failure to save a young abductee from the Shoe Man in 1997 haunts him less, and he has come to terms with the devastating unsolved disappearance of his wife, who resented his extra hours spent on the case. Ecstatically engaged to a loving mortician who's studying Greek philosophy, he awaits the birth of their child. Then the worst kind of déjà vu strikes, forcing Grace to confront the past again. Cutting back and forth between present and past, the book provides blow-by-blow descriptions of both crime sprees. It's a solid and ultimately suspenseful performance, if not an especially surprising or emotionally potent one. Grace is one of the more dryly straightforward, wrinkle-free detectives in British crime fiction, and James does little with the supporting cast to add color. At 500-plus pages, the book could stand to lose at least a quarter of its length—many of the scenes repeat themselves. That said, the parallel stories are deftly handled. And James, who looks to gain exposure in America with his new publisher, Minotaur, expertly sets us up for a sequel.
A sturdy but overlong thriller by a British veteran looking to make noise in the United States.