Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James Macmillan HK$272 Loser Ronnie Wilson has picked a very bad day to try to sell a scheme to make money out of biofuels. With debts mounting, his house and car about to be repossessed and a wife in Britain who likes to spend money he doesn't have, it is a make-or-break plan. Fake Bulgari watch and Louis Vuitton briefcase in place, the former used-car and antiques dealer sets off to meet his old friend and entrepreneur Donald Hatcook. Unfortunately for Wilson, it is 8.47am on the morning of September 11, 2001, and his destination is New York's World Trade Centre's second tower. As the events of the day unfold and the towers fall following the terrorist attacks, no one knows whether Wilson lived or died. Stumbling from the wreckage, he makes sure his mobile phone is off. He has come up with a survival plan. Six years later, twentysomething Abby Dawson has incarcerated herself in a luxury flat in Brighton on Britain's south coast. With multiple locks and safety chain deployed and a can of pepper spray to hand, she is terrified her recent past in Australia is going to catch up with her. She fears for her life and when she receives a text message that says 'I know where you are', she realises she is in deadly trouble. On the same day that Abby is planning to flee, Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is alerted to the discovery of the decomposing remains of a woman in a storm drain, revealed by a developer's excavations. She appears to have been strangled. The discovery weighs heavily on Grace, who is still troubled by the sudden and mysterious disappearance of his wife Sandy nine years previously. Is the body hers? Under pressure from Assistant Chief Constable Alison Vosper and wary of the arrival of her blue-eyed boy, Cassian Pewe, at headquarters, he sets about investigating with the help of an oddball team: the maritally challenged Glenn Branson, lascivious Norman Potting and Malteser addict Bella Moy. In Australia, meanwhile, a couple discover a woman's body in the boot of a car in a river near Melbourne. She also appears to have been strangled. The only evidence that could reveal her identity is the fact that she had breast implants and when the serial numbers are traced it turns out they came from a Brighton hospital in 1997. With the action alternating between 2001 and 2007 chapter by chapter, it seems at first as though the events unfolding are unrelated, but as the clues mount, Grace's job is to piece together the causality that links them. There are books that become films because of their importance; many literary classics fall into that category. Then there are books that reach the big screen by dint of popularity, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code being an example. Finally, there are novels that are written for the genre: Dead Man's Footsteps is one of them. With its fast-cutting action, two- or three-page chapters - Chapter 24 is four paragraphs long - and suspense almost as common as punctuation, the action has the atmosphere of a soap drama - unsurprising, given that Peter James, now with 18 books to his name, studied at film school before working as a screenwriter and film producer in North America. Although most widely known for his best-seller Possession, James has now written four Roy Grace novels; if this one is anything to go by future episodes will be eagerly awaited by crime-fiction fans.