Peter James has had a remarkable crime writing career to date, winning numerous awards including the WH Smith Best Crime Writer of All Time Award and the CWA's Diamond Dagger. He is best known for his internationally best-selling crime thriller series featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, set in Brighton. They have sold 20 million copies world-wide; Dead at First Sight is the latest in the series.
At Gatwick Airport, retired Major John Fordham waits for "the love of his life", Ingrid Ostermann to arrive from Germany. In a Florida hotel retired police officer Matt Sorokin waits for his "soulmate", Evelyne Desota to arrive from Brazil. Both men have met their glamorous girlfriends on an internet dating site. Both men have sent large sums of money to help the women after car accidents and to help with family crises. But neither women arrive because they do not exist.
In Munich, Lena Welch plunges to her death from an apartment block, while in Brighton her sister Suzy Driver is discovered supposedly having committed suicide. Grace has his suspicions about the death which are confirmed when Toby Seward, a handsome Brighton motivational speaker reveals that Suzy had told him his identity was being used to scam eleven different women online.
Grace and his team begin an investigation into a global internet dating scam and the murders of anyone who attempts to expose them. The brains behind the online deception is criminal mastermind, Steve Barrey based in Jersey, who uses "Sakawa boys" in Ghana, hiding behind firewalls in the dark web, to deceive and defraud gullible, lonely older men and women in the West.
But two of the Sakawa boys have gone rogue and are operating their own scam from a mansion in Brighton and Barrey hires a hit man to eliminate them. James skillfully manipulates the various strands of his plot before they all converge in a dramatic confrontation in rural Sussex.
In his acknowledgements, James reveals that the starting point for Dead at First Sight was an article in the Sunday Times about Steve Bustin, a handsome Brighton motivational speaker who learnt that his identity was being used to scam women on eleven different dating sites. James says that, "the information he so generously gave me . . . helped me shape my story". He also thanks PC Bernadette Lawrie who "opened my eyes to the sheer scale of internet romance fraud across . . . the whole of the UK . . . with countless lives ruined everyday".
Dead at First Sight will not set the literary world on fire but if you're looking for a thriller for that long overseas flight or to read on the beach, James' thriller will definitely entertain.
- Anna Creer is a Canberra reviewer.