Picture You Dead by Peter James

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Picture You Dead by Peter James, book 18 in the Roy Grace series, which is published in paperback this week. My thanks to Riot Communications and publisher Pan Macmillan for the copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 11 May 2023
Publisher: Macmillan

About the Book

Discover the darkness that lurks around every corner in the latest instalment of the award-winning Grace series, now a major ITV series.

A priceless discovery. A deadly cost.

Harry and Freya never thought their dream of finding something priceless in a car boot sale would come true – until the day it did . . .

After buying a portrait for its beautiful frame, they find another picture beneath of a stunning landscape. Could it be a long-lost masterpiece from 1770? If genuine, it could be worth millions.

One collector is certain it is genuine. Someone who uses any method he can to get what he wants.

Roy Grace is plunged into the unfamiliar and rarefied world of fine art. Outwardly appearing respectable and above reproach, but he rapidly finds that greed, deception and violence walk hand-in-hand. And Harry and Freya are about to discover that their dream is turning into their worst nightmare . . .

My Thoughts

Shhhh, Don’t tell anyone but … in a true Jen Med’s style plot twist, this is the first full length Roy Grace novel I’ve read. 😬 I’ve read short stories and I’ve watched the TV series (which I thoroughly enjoyed) but I’ve not read any of the novels yet, Until now. One of those ‘came to it late and there’s a lot to catch up on’ moments of fear I have decided to overcome by jumping right in, right now. And why not?

Now anyone who has ever watched Bargain Hunt or The Antiques Roadshow will understand the background to this story. Discovering a little bric-a-brac or something slightly unusual in a collection or a car boot which turns out to be, potentially, worth a small fortune. I recall watching an episode of TAR once where a woman who used to be in Prisoner Cell Block H (the original series) rocked up with a painting that turned out to be worth ten thousand pounds. Quite a lot of money back in the day, but nowhere near the value of the painting that is uncovered by curio collecting Harry and Freya. A potentially priceless painting, picked up for a bargain £20, that if provenance is confirmed, the discovery of which could prove life changing … in all the wrong ways. Meanwhile, Roy Grace and his team are looking into a cold case murder, one with unforeseen ties to this unexpected discovery.

Some people say that they would kill to complete their collection, others have no qualms in following that promise through. Makes for quite the intriguing, and exciting, read.

I’ve really enjoyed taking this first foray into the (written) world of Roy Grace. Yes, if you’re a purist who must read from book one, or someone worried about spoilers, you may not want to start this far through the series as you will discover a few facts about characters and storylines you cannot unread (or unhear if you go audio as I did in part), but for those of us with a short memory or who don’t mind the odd spoiler, the book is a self contained story full of murder, threat, nefarious characters and the wonderful cast of characters that makes up Roy Grace’s team. Having seen the TV series it did kind of help as I was used to the characters, their quirks and styles, and it was interesting gauging just how far from the written persona the dramatic portrayals had ventured. There are those little conflicts and mismatches of personality that you would expect from a team of seasoned and new officers, not all styles will compliment each other, but they still really worked well, and the scenes set in the heart of the cold case investigation get that sense of authenticity and banter laden camaraderie that you would expect from a fictional police team.

I enjoyed the build up on tension in this book. From the opening scenes where the murder which forms the lions share of Roy and Co’s investigation takes place, to the seemingly more pedestrian life of Harry and Freya, Pater James really does draw you into the characters lives, establishing a connection – whether positive or negative – really quickly and setting up an expectation of all that is to come. The first few scenes really do set us up nicely for what comes to pass later in the book, leaving us as readers with some insider info that brings forth a wry smile and a knowing nod, waiting for the almost inevitable to play through. That’s not to say that the book is not full of surprises because it is, and there is an underlying tension that oozes from the pages as you wait to read what you are certain will come to pass.

As for the secondary characters, I grew to like Harry and Freya pretty quickly. I mean, sure, I also wanted to slap them for being a little too naive, especially when news of their unexpected fortune was about to be broadcast over the airwaves to the entire world. Even if viewing numbers on The Antiques Roadshow had been low, that kind of unexpected fortune would not stay secret for long so I couldn’t help having a few face palm moments at some of the decisions made, particularly by Harry. As for those who would stop at nothing to obtain the painting for themselves, they exuded a delicious blend of cruelty and darkness that I loved, and an understated menace that brooked no argument – well not from anyone with any sense of self preservation anyway. I’ve always thought fine art to be a little … well, arty farty for me, but apparently it’s also rather deadly. When you’re talking paintings worth millions, if not tens of millions of pounds, I guess anything can become hazardous to your health.

For my first venture into Brighton with Roy Grace, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I part listened to the audio book too, and Daniel Weyman did a brilliant job of brining the book to life. Occasionally emotional, for reasons I won’t go into because of aforementioned spoilers, a healthy dose of tension and threat and a police team who I became very quickly invested in, this book was a winner for me. I’m now going to need to find the time to go back and read all the ones I missed. Recommended for fans of police thrillers (and maybe even fans of Bargain Hunt too).

About the Author