On a recent visit to Hong Kong, crime writer Peter James is sitting in Stanley Street's Luk Yu teahouse - a fitting interview venue for a novelist acclaimed for the authenticity of his best-selling books. In 2002, at a seat just opposite his, local tycoon Harry Lam Hon-lit was assassinated by a mainland hit-man, hired by one of the victim's business rivals. The shooting shocked the city, not least because it took place in one of the city's most upmarket dim sum restaurants, frequented by the city's elite. 'Have you ever wondered why so many mafia hits take place in restaurants? Most people in danger of being whacked are on their guard almost all of the time. But the one time they aren't, is when they bring that first morsel to their lips after the food has arrived. That's when they are totally distracted and vulnerable,' James says, dabbing at the corner of his mouth with his napkin to counter the effects of an unexpectedly juicy dumpling. James has been a regular visitor to Hong Kong over the years, although he has yet to make contact with local police for research purposes. But knowing James, it's only a matter of time. His Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, based in and around Brighton, has sold more than five million copies around the globe, and been translated into 33 languages. The Brighton-born writer has long had a close working relationship with the Sussex police (the force that covers Brighton), in order to gain insights into the milieu and community he writes about. 'I've been going on patrol with the Sussex police for many years. And now I'm a kind of trusted member of the police community, as the police can see that I depict Brighton's crime picture realistically and responsibly, and so I'm allowed greater access.' And it's a realistic portrait that he paints in his latest novel - again inspired by real-life events. 'It was a case that changed investigative work in a fundamental way. It got me thinking about cold cases that could be brought back to life. And pretty soon I was putting together a new challenge for Detective Roy Grace,' James says during a more recent interview from his home near Brighton. Businessman James Lloyd, married with two children, was a highly regarded member of his village community near the town of Rotherham in northern England. But behind the mask of respectability there lurked a very different character, one that emerged during a dramatic trial at a Sheffield court in 2006. It turned out that the 49-year-old Lloyd had raped at least four women and had attempted to rape a number of others. He kept trophies from his crimes: the fetishist had collected a cache of stiletto shoes. The serial rapist had struck in the 1980s. He had not been caught and seemed simply to stop. In time the masked attacker, dubbed 'The Rotherham Shoe Man', faded from public consciousness. Lloyd's crimes went unsolved for more than 20 years. However, advances in recent years in DNA technology led the police to reopen the inquiry, and then crack the case. Despite so much time having passed since Lloyd's reign of terror, media coverage of the trial was extensive and, with its legal and criminological ramifications, caught the attention of the crime writer. The extraordinary circumstances of Lloyd's belated conviction ignited the idea for Dead Like You (released on May 27). James' protagonist finds himself pitted against a shadowy, vicious rapist with a penchant for women's high-heeled shoes - the more expensive and prestigious the brand, the better. The rapist and the detective taunt each other as the hunt gathers pace. The mind games are disturbing, the dialogue crisp and effortlessly natural, and the minor characters - notably a cabbie with Asperger's syndrome, a young woman on a girls' night out (which goes horribly wrong) and a career criminal just out of jail - are wonderfully realised. Gritty, suspenseful, at times quite funny - James is a master of comic relief - Dead Like You is a gripping yarn but by no means a prurient one. The book is also an informed work on a terrible form of abuse. 'I met the senior arresting officer who apprehended the Rotherham shoe rapist and he, as well as many other police sources, were able to give me very useful views on the case and into this kind of offender's mentality, and into the whole issue of rape itself. The impact of rape on victims is far greater than many people realise. It really is a horrific crime that scars people for life.' James is unafraid to tackle the most difficult issues. The topic of the previous Grace novel, last year's Dead Tomorrow, was the black-market trade in live organs. Every Grace mystery is conceivable; if it reads like real-life crime, it's because James takes his work very seriously. This includes travelling around the world to attend law-enforcement conferences, and going on patrol with police in places such as New York, Paris, Stockholm and Moscow, as well as in his hometown. The writing of Dead Like You has had an impact on its creator. James is now a member of the Sussex Police Rape Prevention Team, and is writing and producing a video for schools warning teenage girls about the risks of date rape. Like the Rotherham case, there's a lengthy hiatus between crime sprees in Dead Like You. To facilitate this duality in the plot, James employs a split narrative: two time lines - 1997 and 'now' - that alternate every few chapters. 'Writing like that was a bloody headache,' he says. 'But the two strands enabled me to show how attitudes to rape [in Britain] have changed, particularly in the police force, since the 1990s and before. 'In the old days, some old plod at the police station might imply that the victim had asked for it by being dressed the way she was, or the fact that she had been out on the town and had enjoyed a few drinks. 'Today, rape victims are always seen by female police officers who have been very thoroughly trained to deal sensitively with them.' Fastidiously researched as usual, this latest page-turner provides the inevitable unpredictability and some fiendishly clever plotting. And the British public seems to like this mix. Dead Like You went straight to No 1 in Britain's best-sellers lists this month, beating new releases by world titans John Grisham and James Patterson. Global sales are also brisk, according to industry sources, with particularly impressive performances in the Asia-Pacific region and - in translation - in Russia and Latvia, where the Roy Grace series is huge. James' police procedurals enjoy a wide reach for all the usual reasons - good stories well-told, plus realism and connectivity to universal themes. But where does it come from? 'One of the first books I was gripped by was Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, a superb book that provided me with a formative reading experience. Brighton still has that edginess that Greene captured so well in that late 1930s work,' James says. 'It still has gangs. It still has a very active feral underclass. There's a lot of criminality in this charming and beautiful city, and - the local tourist board won't thank me for saying this - for the ninth year running Brighton tops the index of British cities for overdose deaths from injectable drugs. Roy Grace and his colleagues have a lot to contend with, just as their real-life counterparts do.' Then he excuses himself. Time to join the police on a planned drug bust in a dodgier part of town. A day in a life of crime writing 'My working day starts back to front, so to speak. Regardless of whether I'm at my Sussex or London home, I start at 6pm with a large vodka martini and olives, and with jazz or opera on the stereo. 'I write until around 10pm, then have a TV supper and watch something trashy. Then I read until around 12.30am - non-fiction when I am working on a novel. I get up early and go jogging, between two to five miles [3km-8km] when I am in Sussex, with our three dogs. This is one of the times when I get to appreciate the beautiful countryside. 'Then, after breakfast and a read of The Times, I review what I wrote the night before, which is normally one complete chapter, or two if very short, then start preparing the next chapter. After lunch I often play a game of tennis, respond to e-mails - many of the fan-mail variety - or enjoy a bit of downtime. 'And before I know it, it's 6pm and time for that ritual vodka martini and work.'