Lat­est Peter James en­ters murky world of jury nob­bling

West Sussex County Times - - The Guide - Phil He­witt

The pan­demic has meant that pub­li­ca­tion is a cou­ple of months later than planned. Even so, there’s still some­thing very re­as­sur­ing about the sight of the new Roy Grace novel hit­ting the book­shelves – just as Roy Grace books have done, one a year, since 2005.

Find Them Dead is the 16th out­ing for Peter James’ Brighton-based de­tec­tive. And while the pub­li­ca­tion de­lay has been frus­trat­ing, Peter ad­mits there have been el­e­ments of the lock­down he has rather en­joyed.

“For the first time in my life, I have not been jump­ing into air­planes ev­ery ten days; I am ahead of sched­ule with my next book; I have been spend­ing more time at home; and I have got into cook­ing. I have al­ways cooked, but my reper­toire has al­ways been a bit lim­ited. But now I have had the chance to try new things.”

Peter sus­pects he will be car­ry­ing some of the lock­down changes with him into our new nor­mal – when­ever that emerges. “I very def­i­nitely am not go­ing to be trav­el­ling as much. Show me things I can do by Zoom and email, and I will be do­ing them!”

In the mean­time, there’s the new Roy Grace for us all to rel­ish, Find Them Dead with its new pub­li­ca­tion date of July 9.

It’s a book which breaks new ground in the lon­grun­ning se­ries. Much of it, for the first time, is set in a court room. “I guess you tend to for­get that for the po­lice and in par­tic­u­lar some­one like Roy Grace, ar­rest­ing a sus­pect is cer­tainly not the end of the story. In some ways, it is al­most the be­gin­ning. Al­most harder than bring­ing the sus­pect to trial is hav­ing the ev­i­dence that is needed for the trial if you are go­ing to con­vict.”

Key to pro­ceed­ings, of course, is the jury: “I did jury ser­vice some years ago, and I found the ex­pe­ri­ence…well, scary is the wrong word.

But I found it sur­pris­ing and I found it sur­pris­ing in a num­ber of ways. The first thing is this over­whelm­ing sense of power you have as a ju­ror. It is al­most like you are watch­ing a play ex­cept that you are ac­tu­ally part of the play, and you are part of a de­ci­sion that will change a per­son’s life very se­ri­ously. You con­vict some­one of armed rob­bery or as­sault or what­ever, and you are go­ing to de­stroy their life and the lives of their loved ones. If you ac­quit them, of course, you im­pact on their lives in a very dif­fer­ent way.”

The fact you are just one of 12 on the jury isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a com­fort. Peter knows of some­one who over­heard a fel­low ju­ror say ‘Well, he’s ob­vi­ously guilty be­cause he is a ho­mo­sex­ual’ on the first morn­ing of a trial.

“I also heard com­ments from my fel­low ju­rors of prej­u­dice that ut­terly floored me.”

But the other point – key to the book – is that ju­rors are also in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble: “They don’t have any pro­tec­tion. If you wanted to nob­ble a ju­ror, it would not be dif­fi­cult.”

In the book, Meg Mag­el­lan fi­nally has her life back to­gether, five years af­ter the car crash that killed her hus­band and their son. Her daugh­ter, Laura, now 18, is on her gap year trav­el­ling in South Amer­ica with a friend, and Meg misses her badly. Laura is all she has in the world.

In be­tween jobs, Meg re­ceives a sum­mons for jury ser­vice. She’s ex­cited – it might be in­ter­est­ing and will help dis­tract her from con­stantly wor­ry­ing about Laura. But when she is se­lected for the trial of a ma­jor Brighton drugs over­lord, ev­ery­thing changes. Just a few days into jury ser­vice, Meg ar­rives home to find a pho­to­graph of Laura, in Ecuador, ly­ing on her kitchen ta­ble. Then her phone rings. A sin­is­ter, threat­en­ing stranger is on the line. He tells her that if she ever wants to see Laura alive again, it is very sim­ple. At the end of the trial, all she has to do is make sure the jury says just two words ... Not guilty.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.