Eden Paternoster goes into Tesco to buy cat litter while her husband Niall looks for parking, but she never comes out, and none of the staff remember her at all. DS Roy Grace, DI Glenn Branson, and their team are assigned the disappearance, and their investigation reveals that nothing is as it originally seems.
Left You Dead is a twisty mystery with a quiet feel. The truth behind Eden’s disappearance seems straightforward at first, but as any long-time mystery buff knows, that usually means there are a lot more secrets to uncover. I love the way Grace, Branson, and their team work to uncover clues. They work really well together, and even the minor side characters are given enough of a personality to make a mark, such as DS Norman Potting who mostly provides comic relief but is battling health issues, and Sharon Orman, whose lip-reading skills provide vital clues. There’s also a subplot about an incompetent and corrupt boss who seems to have it in for Grace, that seems like it’ll have effects on Grace’s career down the road.
The heart of this story, however, lies not in the mystery, but in a subplot concerning Roy Grace’s personal life, and a very difficult decision he needs to make. The subplot turns this into an emotional read, but James treats it with a very restrained touch. The author also makes sure to interweave this through scenes about the investigation, which are much less fraught. Long-time series fans and casual readers alike will feel for Grace, and will wonder about the questions regarding this that James strongly hints at, but deliberately leaves unresolved.
Overall, the subplot makes it tough to call this book a fun read or even an entertaining one. But it is a good one, both a pivotal instalment in the Roy Grace series and a fascinating mystery to unravel. I have an especially soft spot for Reggie, Eden and Niall’s cat, who reveals a hilarious and vivid personality in the few scenes he’s in, and I’m glad to see how the story turns out for him.
CW: death of a child
Thank you to Publishers Group Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.