WHAT would you do if your partner nipped into a supermarket and did not return - and you found yourself accused of their murder?

This is the premise for Peter James' latest book in his best-selling series featuring Brighton detective Roy Grace.

Left You Dead, book number 17 in the series, is released this week with a virtual launch on Wednesday.

Peter has had the idea for this particular book for years - and said he is fascinated by the stories behind missing people and the challenges police face in "no body murder" cases.

The author said: "Most of the time, missing people are found within four or five days. But if they've not been found within 30 days, they are almost certainly not going to turn up again.

The Argus: Peter James' latest bookPeter James' latest book

"Where are they? Some may have run away and changed their identities, perhaps to escape debts, or sadly committed suicide and their bodies never found.

"I remember asking a police officer if there is such thing as a perfect murder and he said: 'Absolutely. They're the ones we never hear about'.

"These are the hardest cases to investigate for police - when they don't have hard proof of a body. And that's how this story starts."

Left You Dead begins with a Brighton couple arguing over cat litter.

On a Sunday drive near Steyning, Niall and Eden Paternoster stop outside the Tesco at Holmbush so Eden can collect the cat litter Niall has forgotten to buy.

Niall waits impatiently in the car, eager to get home so he can watch the Grand Prix, but Eden never comes out of the shop.

Peter said: "I had the idea years ago - I would be driving somewhere and my wife would want to stop at a shop.

"I often thought, what if she dashed in and never came out again?

"How long would I wait and what would I do? Unless there was CCTV, would anyone believe my story?

"I call it the everyday sinister - I'm more interested in the idea of something happening to any one individual, like you or me."

The Argus: Peter JamesPeter James

2021 is shaping up to be a busy one for the crime author.

Two weeks after Left You Dead is released, Peter's novella for the Reading Agency's Quick Reads programme, aimed at getting less confident readers back into books, will be launched on May 27.

Peter's contribution, Wish You Were Dead, centres around Roy Grace's family on a "holiday from hell".

Following its world premiere this summer, a stage play of Looking Good Dead, starring Adam Woodyatt in the lead role, is set for a run at Brighton's Theatre Royal in October.

And of course, filming is also due to begin later this year on the second series of ITV's small screen adaptation Grace, with three new 120 minute films based on Peter's novels Not Dead Enough, Dead Man’s Footsteps and Dead Tomorrow.

Peter said he was delighted with the way the city looked in the first show, which amassed 8.8 million viewers when it aired earlier this year.

He said: "I've never seen Brighton look so good on film - I'm so happy as I'm passionate about the city.

The Argus: Peter James was delighted with ITV's adaptation, GracePeter James was delighted with ITV's adaptation, Grace

"John Simm is exactly the Roy Grace of my imagination and great to work with.

"There's a scene early on in the book where we first learn Roy's wife Sandy has disappeared.

"Grace's mate sets him up with a blind date, and the morning they were filming that scene, John said to me, do you think I should wear my wedding ring or take it off?

"I love that he had thought about that much detail."

Anyone can attend the virtual launch for Left You Dead on Wednesday by registering online, and signed copies of the book can be ordered from City Books in Hove.

Peter, who is already halfway through his next book, said the one saving grace of lockdown had been the time it gave him to write.

He said: "It's the first time in my life I'm actually ahead of schedule on a book.

"But normally I would be going out with police on a regular basis for my research, and I've really missed that aspect of it.

"And with the theatre production and audiences coming back - I'm really looking forward to that.

"I love sitting at the back and listening to the audience's reaction."

You can register to attend the virtual launch for the book here

Read extracts from the new book in the printed Argus newspaper from this Friday.