Crime Peter James style comes to Newcastle

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Crime Peter James’ style came to Newcastle last night and what a feast of deceit and betrayal it was. Now we love Peter James here at the booktrail and his thriller Dead Simple is one of our favourites. So how would this translate to stage?

Very very well is the dead simple answer….

The lights dimmed, then went black. Silence. Well apart from some old lady a few seats away opening up her mint humbugs. And then BOOM,  a voice – that of Peter James himself warning us that we should turn off our mobile phones or risk being the next victim. A nice touch. Kept humbug lady quiet as well…

Then the curtain went up…

Wedding plans are being made, the groom-to-be is a man who has pranked his mates one too many times and so they have something spectacular in mind. They tell him and his fiancee that it’s just a pub crawl but you know it’s not. This is Peter James after all…

So, he’s kidnapped by his mates (In frightening clown masks brrrr) taken out to a wood and buried alive. They drive off with plans to come back hours later. Only a car crash on the motorway puts paid to that plan..

And that’s only the start…

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Can’t say more without spoiling the plot but suffice to say the stars of the show were fantastic. Tina Hobley (Casualty) as the fiancee played a blinder (and what a nice appartment she has!), her husband to be, Jamie Lomas, played a troubled and anguished soul with skill as did his best friend and property developer partner Mark (Emmerdale’s Nikhil). Star of the show was Simple Davey (Josh Bown) who raised more than a laugh and inward gasp. The story really depends on how well you believe this young and emotionally stunted young man who lives in his own little world of cop shows and computer games. And we did!

All very believable with a sense of there’s something not quite right with this little picture of cosy bliss…and offshore bank accounts.

Thrills and spills aplenty. And the genius of this adaptation for us was the way the stage split in three – the appartment on the right, Simple Davey’s garage on the left and above, a wooded area with a coffin in the ground…..

And if darkness and impending terror is not considered a stage prop then it is now – used to maximum chilling effect. There is one moment where silence was deafening…the tension high…..and then the entire audience shrieked out in horror. A few ladies next to us got very disturbed. Got one of those random humbugs in my lap…

Just as well the next scene was set in daylight – we needed a bit of sunshine to calm us all down. Didn’t last long though…

A special mention has to go to the fantastic Gray O’Brien who played  Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. He was dark,  mysterious, misunderstood and troubled- everything a good cop should be. Sidekick DS Branson was a  great character – funny, charming and a great help to Roy Grace. We liked his wit and irony – they made a great double act. And it was nice to see them in real life so to speak!

Dead Simple is at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday, May 30. Get your tickets from http://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/  or phone  08448 112121

The play has its own website – http://www.deadsimpletheplay.co.uk/index.html

And just one tip – don’t take humbugs…

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Want you Dead – Brighton – Peter James

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The tenth outing for Peter James shows us some uncomfortable truths about the digital age and what lengths some people will go to get someone’s attention.

Story in a nutshell

Red Westwood, an estate agent, has recently met a man – Bryce Laurent. She goes on a few dates but then soon realizes that he is not who she thought he was so she break off the relationship.  To say that he doesn’t take the news kindly is putting it mildly.

When she starts dating a new man and he ends up dead, things start to get very dangerous indeed. Detective Roy Grace comes on to the scene and starts to investigate yet he has issues of his own, not to mention his upcoming wedding and having to deal with issues of his past.

But Grace is going to have to deal with a case that escalates into a case like no other –  Bryce does not accept rejection and he wants Red back. He is going to make sure that she knows just how keen and interested he is, that he knows all about her and that he is the only one that cares.

Place and setting

Want you  Dead takes you in and around the Brighton and Hove area
Want you Dead takes you in and around the Brighton and Hove area

Of course with Peter James being the undisputable King of Brighton, then the action takes place in and around the city. But the beauty of the novels are that Brighton takes on a new identity each and every time. As usual, anyone who knows and loves Brighton and Hove will recognise popular James’ locations- such as Kemp Town to Central Hove. But they haven’t had such an eerie and creepy feel to them as now.

There are sights where you should go however such as the Brighton and Shellfish oyster bar under the kings road arches where Rachel and Karl have a date.And you might want to play a round of golf at the Haywards Heath golf club. Maybe even have a quickie or was that Quiche? at the Beach Cafe at Hove Lagoon. Brighton is nothing if not quirky.

Haywards Heath golf club -where Karl plays golf Brighton Marina  - where Red’s parents have their boat Henfield - childhood home of Red Westwood John Street , Brighton - where the police station is, near the safe house Tongdean  Avenue- Red goes here to show a house to  a potential client
Haywards Heath golf club -where Karl plays golf
Brighton Marina – where Red’s parents have their boat
Henfield – childhood home of Red Westwood
John Street , Brighton – where the police station is, near the safe house
Tongdean Avenue- Red goes here to show a house to a potential client

This book was creepy. The way in which Bryce was so determined to follow and get revenge on Red was  creepy and eerily plausible. The fact that the man in question  narrates his plans in the first person was particularly chilling and I could see him in the car in the dark or in the flat opposite practically running his hands in glee at the level of his evil thoughts that he intends to put into action. It shows the ease in which the internet can help fuel these weird desires and how social media can not always be the force of good.

Bryce always seems one step ahead however and the way he is able to do this, as its revealed is insightful into the mind of  one very ill individual.

Red has to try and keep things together whilst going into a safe house, and all the while looking over her shoulder. The fact she is an estate agent brought back chilling memories of Suzy Lamplugh, who when showing a house to a certain ‘ Mr Kipper’ she disappeared and was never seen again. Other stories of stalking in the news made this novel particularly apt and real.

Some interesting changes in the life of our Roy Grace here- wonder how things will pan out?

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House – Brighton – Stephanie Lam

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Helmstone 1965 (modelled a lot on Brighton with bits of Ramsgate and Broadstairs thrown in)

18 year old Rosie Churchill has run away from home and everything she knows to rent a bed in the rundown Castaway House. What she runs into however is a world of mystery and intrigue – for whose are the initials of R.C  apart from being her very own? and what is the mysterious words carved into a windowframe?

1924 – nineteen year old Robert Carver makes his way to Castaway House to stay with his wealthier, older cousin Alec. The house that appeared so run down and in disrepair was once the epitamy of glamour – ornate and a place of dinner parties and gossip. There is also a great deal of intrigue however as he soon finds that Alec has married and the house he walks into is not the house he thought he would see, The summer he spend there will change his and others lives forever.

Ramsgate, Broadstairs in Kent and Brighton - inspiration for the setting of the novel
Ramsgate, Broadstairs in Kent and Brighton – inspiration for the setting of the novel

Although Helmstone is fictional, we believe it to be set in or around Brighton since this is where the author lives and having spent time there, it is very easy to picture the cliffs, holiday makers and the stunning yet imposing castaway house on the rocky crag face.

There were also many mentions of the 1st and 2nd world wars – certainly in both 1924 and 1965, neither war would be a distant memory to anyone – and Brighton would most likely have felt the memories and affects more than any place -one that would have acted as a coastal look out?

There is something about a mysterious house on a hill which towers over a town and watches over the people, keeping their and its own secrets behind thick wooden door and heavy bricks.

Castaway House was very well titled – for it cast me away on a reading oasis that I did not want to wake up from – it was very cinematic and evocative of location and even though Helmstone was fictional I feel I have been there and know it well – such was the skill of the writer.

The  star of the show was the one setting described and evoked so differently that was a booktrail favourite, It was like holding a old black and white photo over a modern setting – you’ve seen the art shots I mean but never before have I seen this evoked in words in quite the same way and a scene which flits back and forth to the same spot for maximum impact.

The difference is as stark as silk and rough taffeta – Alec is trying to project an image of glamour and a privileged world with ladies who wear silk before switching to the poorer sixties where the texture of society as well as the clothes is somewhat darker and rougher. There was no rough friction slips between the two time periods however and the overall effect was smooth and effective.When they converge – the effect is quite something!

A dark story of twists and turns aplenty – Robert and Rosie are two such characters I was really taken with – what with their place and hold over Castaway house – the house with a character of its own and I would say that the house itself is the most intriguing character of all.

The rest of the cast – for that is the feeling I had with this book – a mysterious and eerie story being played out in all its glory with the backstage moments, off side remarks and a feeling that for now at least some of the plot spoilers were missing – that is until Stephanie chose to reveal them slowly and one by one.

As is apt with a dark and ruined house set against a backdrop of remote rocky cliffs, this house does not give up its secrets easily and you are left in the dark until the time is right. You might think you know what to expect creeping around a dark house at night but there are many many surprises in store.

Lastly a note has to be made of the gorgeous and sumptuous cover – the silk, the hue of riches and glamour….velvety to the touch as well. This book really is one to feed the senses.

See the debut author here – @stephanielam1

Book Advent – day 20 – a quiz trip to Brighton

Well today we have a little quiz about an author who sets most of his books in  certain beautiful city in England. His famous detective is synonymous with the city and has 9 novels written about him. Here are 5 questions which you can have a go at and then go and pick up the books to read for yourself!

The author –

Peter James - Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Peter James – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

1.It was meant to be a harmless stag night prank. Which book does this line describe?

 

2.Which novel contains a a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922?

Brighton is the setting for many of Peter James novels
Brighton is the setting for many of Peter James novels

3.Which book contains the warning – 

 I am warning you and I wont repeat this warning. Don’t take the part. You’d better believe me. Take the part and you are dead. Bitch.

 

4.Which character finds a CD on a train which leads to murder?

5. The stage production of which book will start touring this January?

 

Answers tomorrow. The Answers for yesterday’s snow quiz are as follows – 1 Narnia, 2 Godric’s hollow Graveyard, 3-Alaska and Faina, 4- Altenhain, Germany, 5 – Catcher in the Rye