Review of Perfect People - The Mirror
He is best known for his No 1 bestselling Roy Grace crime novels, combining super-deft plotting, great characterisation and extraordinarily accurate procedure.
But Peter James isn't just a superb popular writer, he's a great researcher. He clearly puts in a tremendous amount of legwork before he even starts typing.
Now, his first stand alone novel since the extraordinary, though completely deserved, sucess of the Roy Grace series features all James' strengths, including his ability to capture a sense of real horror in a very real world.
Perfect People, a novel that he has been working on for a decade, tackles the increasingly real issue of creating designer babies by genetic engineering. Be careful what you wish for is the sub-text here.
Following the death of their young son through a genetic disorder, John and Naomi are desperate to have another child - although they don't want it to suffer the same fate.
After huge trepidation, John, a struggling scientist, and his wife Naomi, finally decide to call on the services of a highly controversial billionaire geneticist.
Operating from a ship in international waters to avoid all regulation, Dr Leo Dettore claims he can not only fix fatal abnormalities, but create human beings to order.
It's not just about looks and strength for these designer humans, but things such as stamina, empathy, and a thirst for sucess as well.
Dettore pushes John and Naomi into designing an ever more perfect specimen. But once impregnated, things quickly start to go awry.
Matters are made worse when their story becomes public and Dettore is presumed murdered by a group of religious fundamentalists.
The twist at the very end, although not completely surprising, is extraordinarily moving.
This is very much a novel about the preciousness of life, the randomness of survival and, ultimately, humanity as we've always known it.