If you could change just one thing about yourself, what would it be? And we are not just talking about changing your behaviour, being a better person, but actually changing physical attributes — such as height, your propensity to gain weight, have better hand-eye coordination or be more empathic. It is an interesting question. Admit it — we all have secret wishes.Now imagine if that were possible. You could sit and choose what genes you want your children to develop — free of genetic diseases, with above-average intelligence and being able to inherit desirable genes, such as the ability to take sociopathic tendencies and turn it into business acumen.It is a world of genetic engineering, where couples who can afford it can pick the best qualities for their offspring. That is the devious and devilish world conjured up by British author Peter James in his first standalone novel in more than a decade. His Dead series featuring Brighton copper Roy James have made him a household name for crime fans, but Perfect People opens the door on the world of designer babies — and the potential moral and societal pitfalls and benefits — such a science can service.John and Naomi Klaesson each carry a gene that leads to the agonising death of their 4-year-old son. Borrowing funds and using their entire life savings, they decide to turn to the mysterious and scientific outcast Dr Leo Dettore to ensure that their next child is free of the deadly gene. But the couple is also faced with a perplexing list of genes that can be eliminated or added to their new child. It is not just about choosing sex but eliminating all harmful genes which may cause cancer, diabetes or any other illnesses over the lifespan of their child. And yes, rapid development can be added, along with genes that allow for extended life spans, empathy, height — any characteristic or trait the couple desires.Ominously, Dr Dettore warns them that unless they make the "right" choices, they risk having their offspring grow up in a world divided by the haves and have-nots of genetic birthright. And who wouldn't want the best for their child? Naturally, as with any James page-turning thriller, things start to go wrong. The Klaessons want a perfect child. What they get instead is a nightmare.Perfect People is a novel with several twists, and even though it is James's first standalone offering in nearly 12 years, he is deft at manipulating us, leading us through the pages kicking and screaming into a plot far bigger than the Klaessons could ever imagine. Hounded by religious fanatics for their decision to give birth to "the son of Satan", the couple moves to Sussex. Here James is back on familiar territory, the patch pounded by Roy James — but that is incidental in Perfect People.Instead of a son, the Klaessons end up with twins. And when they are born, the couple realise that their children are bright, they develop quickly and are eager to soak up knowledge — but they aren't normal. Add to that the murder of Dr Dettore and you have all the elements of a book that you simply cannot put down.The scary thing is that all the scientific bases in Perfect People are already in place, and the mapping of the human genome allows specific gene clusters to be identified. If we are to believe James, we are already committed to a path of genetic engineering of the haves and the have-nots.As with all James books, the final twist is delicious. There will be no spoiler alert here. Go read Perfect People yourself. James has a winner on his hands.