Michelle Kung
February 23, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Tightly paced and genuinely frightening, Looking Good Dead, Peter James’ second novel featuring British Det. Superintendent Roy Grace, begins with a law student’s grisly slaying by stiletto blade. Salesman Tom Bryce accidentally witnesses the murder on an abandoned CD; when his family receives threats from the snuff film’s shadowy producers, he turns to Grace for help. A self-billed ”dumb copper,” Grace is unmemorably just that, complete with standard love woes. But James’ gripping story — and some pretty horrific killings involving sulfuric acid baths and scarab beetles stuffed into places they don’t belong — makes for a compelling read. B+

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