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Susan’s Bookshelves: Stop Them Dead by Peter James

I’m not really a dog person. Cats are more my thing. I like dogs, though. In the last year or two I have acquired two as close canine family members and I always engage with friendly dogs I see on trains or in the park. I just have no wish to take full responsibility for one.

Veteran crime writer Peter James, unlike me, is clearly every inch a dog man and his new Roy Grace title spells out the horror of dog crime –  now apparently, even more rampant than drug crime first, because  there’s a lot of money in it and second, because the pandemic has triggered a huge thirst for dog ownership which in some cases is shortlived.

I’m a sucker for crime fiction. It’s my go-to for light reading, Peter James is always a curl-up-on-the-sofa treat. And I suppose the gripping, overarching narrative from novel to novel, now de rigeur in all crime series, is the reading woman’s answer to TV soaps. And in this case I also enjoy the Brigton setting because it’s a city I know pretty well.

As always there are several story lines in Stop Them Dead which eventually come together. A genuine, decent farmer who has bred a litter of puppies is killed in his yard when he tries to stop a gang of thieves stealing his dogs. A (usually) sensible family deny common sense and advice and buy a puppy for cash in a lay-by after which their beloved, only child becomes seriously ill. Meanwhile Grace and his wife Cleo want a second dog … and there is a spate of dog thefts (to order) in the streets and parks of Brighton. This is Peter James so, of course, it’s a perfectly plotted page turner and will eventually attract millions of viewers when it’s televised for ITV with John Simm as Grace.

I like this novel particularly because James evidently wants to spread information about the cruel, dark ruthless world which forms the background. Yes, in real life as well as in fiction, there are still gullible people who find “breeders” online and buy dogs from them in motorway service stations for cash only to find that all the paperwork is fake and that, often, that the dog is weak or, at worst, seriously ill. At a time when a proper pedigree dog from a registered breeder costs thousands it’s not surprising that a half price bargain seems attractive to some. But some of the puppies are imported from abroad, or bred in terrible conditions in Britain and they’re almost always too young to be taken from their mothers. Caveat emptor or buyer beware. The only way to stop this dreadful trade is to boycott and report it.

You’ll be pleased to know, by the way, that my granddog (pictured) was born and rescued  in Cyprus before finding a new home in Britain via a reputatable charity.  My nephew-dog meanwhile came from a registered breeder and my sister saw the whole litter with their mother, more than once.


But, another relation who has kept dogs all her life bought, in order to rescue, a three year old “Covid dog”,  who had never been chipped, vaccinated or checked by a vet after producing eleven puppies. That particular dog has now landed on all four paws but they aren’t all so lucky. These horrors really do go on. Read Peter James’s gripping novel and pass on the information.

Next week on Susan’s Bookshelves: The Man Who Pays the Rent by Judi Dench

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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