Number of pages: 379
This book opens with a stag party; the stag's friends decide to play a pracical joke on the stag, Michael, by putting him in a coffin and buring him while they visit a strip club. Turns out, Michael played particularly nasty pranks on all his friends before their weddings (he is said to have handcuffed one of them on a train bound for Edinburgh the night before his wedding on the other side of the country).
Their intention is just to leave him for a few hours to teach him a lesson, but things go horribly wrong when three of the friends die in a car accident, which leaves the fourth in a coma, and he doesn't last much longer.
Another friend arrives on the scene, Michael's business partner, Mark, who almost immediately seems very shady, and appears to be intent on finding and killing Michael, whose only hope is with a young man who he has managed to communicate with. A police officer's son, Davey, has picked up a walky talky at the scene, which was being used to communicate with Michael. However, Michael finds it difficult to explain the circumstances, mostly because Davey also has a learning disability, and doesn't quite understand what is going on.
This book is the first in a long series of mysteries starring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a character who - like all fictional detectives - has his own cross to bear, mostly because his former girlfriend Sandy went missing without a trace; she seems like a character who will become more prominent in one of the later books.
I found this gripping, mostly because I found Michael really easy to care for, as the book repeatedly cut back to him buried alive and trying to communicate with Davey, and it felt like his chances of rescue weren't great. The book also throws in a few plot twists to keep the audience on their toes, and this might be the first book I've read where the reader was kept a few steps ahead of the detective by knowing more about what was going on.
I got this book because I came across the second book in the series, Looking Good Dead, but wanted to read this first. I'd like to read more books about Roy Grace, as he seems like an enjoyable character, who doesn't always play by the book (he likes to involve mediums in his investigations). The only real issue I had was that he seems to make some startling leaps to reach correct conclusions; at one point he suddenly takes two pieces of evidence and guesses exactly what has happened to Michael.
I loved the fact that nothing was quite as it seemed in this book, and the second book is now on my list of books to read.
Next book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)