on 21 June 2012
The twelfth entry in the series featuring Ben Cooper now a Sergeant, and DS Diane Fry brings starkly to our attention the effects of fire in the Peak District in Derbyshire.
Situated in an isolated area is an abandoned pub -The Light House, which has been empty for the past two years. Following the report by one of the fire fighters of a break-in at the abandoned pub Cooper decides to investigate. But a call reporting the discovery of a buried rucksack with a leather wallet containing credit cards drives the abandoned pub from Cooper's mind. Could this buried find be a lead to the mystery of the disappearance of two tourists who two years ago, just vanished. And despite exhaustive searches of the area not a sign of them has ever been found.
The subsequent discovery of a body in the abandoned pub has Cooper kicking himself for not carrying out a search of the pub himself. That DS Fry, who is now assigned to the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, was the one to make the discovery rankles with Cooper. Diane Fry is always hopeful that she has shaken off the mud and the lambs of the Peak District, but something always seems to drag her back.
So the dormant case is now a priority. Could the body found in the abandoned pub be linked to the disappearance of David and Trisha Pearson? DS Ben Cooper and DC Carol Villiers whom Ben has known from school investigate. Also on the team is DC Gavin Murfin. As his retirement approaches we learn more of Gavin Murfin and I found the insight strangely moving.
Cooper is due to marry Liz Petty, a crime scene operative. It seems that the only topic of conversation Liz has is wedding plans, and it is clear that it is at times getting on Cooper's nerves, it certainly got on mine. Although as Cooper muses it's her special day and he loves her so much that he wants her to have that day.
This is a mystery that keeps the reader guessing all through the book - just what did happen to the Pearsons? But the climax is stunningly unexpected, and leaves the reader reeling. Do not miss this entry in this highly acclaimed series. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
on 7 October 2012
As this book opens, firefighters in the Peak District of England are fighting what seems to be a losing battle, trying to contain the flames engulfing this part of Derbyshire, with smoke covering acres and acres of the moors from the catastrophic wildfires that have been springing up, the worst seen in the area in decades, many undoubtedly the result of arson. But to D.S. Ben Cooper, his more immediate problem are the buried items found by the crew working one of the sites, and which appear to be clothing and other items - including a wallet and credit cards - which had belonged to a young couple who had seemingly disappeared over two years ago, in the middle of a snowstorm. They had last been seen in a local pub, with no trace found since, and the case, while no longer active, is as cold as it could be.
The Major Crime Unit is called in, and DS Diane Fry, Ben's old nemesis, is put in charge. [Diane had been his immediate supervisor before his promotion to detective sergeant.] Diane, for her part, couldn't be happier that she had, as she thought, put Derbyshire behind her, her career taking her on an upward path - - she has been with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit for six months, and is less than thrilled to be back again. In a bit of one-upsmanship, she soon discovers a dead body in the old abandoned pub - - Ben's office had received a call about a break-in there, but had yet to investigate.
With Ben's upcoming marriage to Liz Petty, a civilian crime scene examiner, coming up in a few months, the distraction of the wedding plans in which his fiancée is immersed causes him not a little irritation. Ben and the rest of his CID team at Derbyshire Constabulary E Division have their hands full, with the two investigations proceeding simultaneously, although Diane makes clear that the old case is her jurisdiction. Behind everything, the raging fires continue, a constant backdrop underlying everything which follows. The author's meticulous descriptions of the landscape make for a visceral sense of place.
Mr. Booth has once again created a suspenseful scenario, with many a twist and turn. This elegantly written novel is the 12th entry in the Cooper and Fry series, and at the end this reader reluctantly closed the book, fervently hoping it won't be the last. Recommended.
on 27 June 2012
Despite having achieved something approaching iconic status within the confines of the Peak District National Park, Stephen Booth is a Lancastrian by birth and upbringing. Having narrowly avoided a career in teaching, he turned, like many other future novelists, to journalism. Over a period of twenty-odd years he worked on both sides of the Pennines - it takes a brave man to do that! - but he was always an aspiring novelist, and the success of his first published novel, `Black Dog' in 2000 contributed to his decision a year later to give up the day job and become a full-time writer. `Black Dog' introduced DC Ben Cooper, a rural Derbyshire lad, and his partner and part-time nemesis DS Diane Fry, burdened with a troubled past and an almost phobic aversion to the countryside.
Cooper and Fry have featured in all Stephen Booth's subsequent novels, and these have appeared at yearly intervals apart from a gap in 2008. `Dead and Buried' is the twelfth book in the series, with Cooper as a recently-promoted DS, still based in Edendale, Fry having taken a level transfer to the newly-created East Midlands Special Operations Unit - Major Crime, located in Nottingham. It's late spring; there has been little rain and another wildfire - the sixth in the Peak this year - has broken out on Oxlow Moor, not far from Edendale. A fire officer has spotted a suspicious white pickup driving away from the Light House, a recently closed pub on the edge of the moor, and a quick check reveals signs of a break-in. The building is soon to be auctioned, and the owners have requested a police examination of the scene.
Cooper decides to have a look himself, taking the opportunity to have a word with the firefighters on his way. The senior fire officer is convinced that the latest blaze was started deliberately, and takes Cooper to see the probable seat of the fire. While they talk, a firefighter working nearby discovers a rucksack, apparently deliberately buried but exposed by the erosive action of the flames. SOCOs are called in, and within a couple of hours they have unearthed a couple of good-quality anoraks, stained by what looks like blood, a dead mobile telephone and a decomposing wallet containing a credit card bearing the name David James Pearson.
Pearson and his wife had disappeared in a snowstorm a couple of years earlier. No bodies had been found, but the affair became something of a cause célèbre when it emerged that Pearson had misappropriated around two million puonds prior to his disappearance. Had the Pearsons died, or had they simply arranged to disappear before assuming new identities elsewhere? Either way, this is a case for the Major Crime Unit, and Cooper's intended visit to the Light House is forgotten - which turns out to be a pity ....
The MCU duly arrives, in the persons of DCI Mackenzie and - you've guessed it! - DS Fry. She is less than pleased to find herself back among the moors she thought she had put behind her. By this point we have all the elements necessary for an intriguing mystery, and Stephen Booth does not disappoint. All this - and much more, including a murder - has taken place before we reach page 40 of a 384-page novel, and the convoluted plot develops and unwinds intriguingly and unpredictably through the rest of the book. It would be unfair to prospective readers to disclose any further details, but the plotting is scrupulously fair; it is certainly possible to work out the solution from the clues provided, though I failed miserably and I doubt whether many readers will fare much better.
Though the characters develop as the series progresses, each book works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel and readers new to Cooper and Fry will not find themselves at a material disadvantage. Readers already familiar with the characters are also in for a treat; this instalment moves the backstory forward significantly. Further changes are in the air as the novel draws to a conclusion; long-serving DI Paul Hitchens is about to move on, DC Gavin Murfin is on the brink of retirement, and much else has come to pass, so established readers will inevitably be tempted to speculate upon what the future might hold. For my part, I hope that Diane Fry is not to be promoted to fill Paul Hitchens' shoes; the Cooper-Fry interaction is in danger of being overworked - but, of course, you may think otherwise. It's a shame we'll have to wait a year to find out!
In Amazon reviews of earlier novels, there has been some criticism of the prominence given to historic and topographical detail. It's certainly clear that Stephen Booth loves the Peak District, but to me the `local colour' simply adds to my enjoyment of the novels. I've visited the area a few times - I've hauled my kids up the hill to Peveril Castle and down into the caverns, both events being hugely enjoyed - though I can't claim to know it well, but Booth's writing so strongly evokes a sense of place that it's easy for the reader to construct a detailed mind-picture of the backdrop against which the action unfolds.
I felt that some of the books in the middle of the series didn't quite match the quality of the earliest novels, but `Dead and Buried' is up there with the best. I recommend it without hesitation and hope that you find it as enjoyable as I did.
This was my first encounter with Stephen Booth, drawn to the novel by having lived in Derbyshire for some years. The background of The Peak District is vividly brought to life, especially via the heath fires. The plot is promising tying up past and present. These features apart I found the book rather disappointing, or perhaps not much more than a run of the mill British crime thriller. Certainly, on the strength of this offering I don’t think that Booth is in the class of M. R. Hall, Benjamin Black or Ann Cleeves for example.
DS Ben Cooper struck me as a somewhat colourless character and DS Fry as even more so. I found it a constant annoyance that Booth felt it necessary to spell out everything explicitly, allowing the reader no room to draw conclusions. In short, too much telling and too little showing. If Booth wishes to make so much of Cooper’s relationship with his intended bride then Liz needs to be given some identity in the novel other than a tediously wedding–obsessed woman, who slots into the plot here and there, but is given little if any personality. The writing seems to me rather flat and the dialogue lacks any sparkle or real tension. I had hoped that the plot would issue in an exciting climax, but the conclusion is drawn out to a ridiculous length, with the result that suspense has peaked a long way before the final pages of the novel. I don’t know how typical this novel is of Booth’s output; I’m willing to give another a go.
The peaty soil of the Peak District has dried out and is easily set alight, so in this latest atmospheric offering from Stephen Booth, large swathes of moorland are burning. A pub which has closed due to the economic situation, the drink and drive ban and its isolated location, is the epicentre of the shockwaves running through the story.
Ben Cooper the local copper is starting to get jaded and to lose hope of promotion, while old-timer Gavin Murfin is jocularly pretending he doesn't care that he'll soon be pushed into retirement. Diane Fry, the snappy, pushy outside lass, is hauled back to deal with a major crime but her specialist squad role doesn't make her happy; she thought she'd never have to look at sheep again. Methinks she should transfer to London and get over herself. Normally I cheer for the female officer, but she's been losing my support fast.
A body is found in the closed pub and this has potential ties to the disappearance of two hikers a couple of years previously. As the hikers had financial troubles it has been thought that like the vanishing canoeist who went to Panama, they have just flitted; a relative is adamant that they must be dead.
Myself, I couldn't see how a scene of crime team would overlook what they overlooked, in the case of the hikers or the new body. I also found the tale rather slow in the middle and thought some tighter editing might have helped, as not much was happening. But this is probably like real life. Cooper is involved in wedding preparations and happy for once. We know that with crime story protagonists, this is seldom allowed to remain the case, so I got suspicious right away. After all, nobody buys books about happy people. But the author is entitled to write the stories as they come to him, and I'm afraid all those of us who enjoy happy endings will just have to go and read a romance.
on 25 January 2013
In Dead and Buried the real heat of the story smoulders beneath the surface just like the slow-burn of peat beneath the blazing moorlands - allowing you to journey through the pages at an easy pace until too late you realise the flames have snuck up behind you, cutting off all retreat.
As always Stephen Booth gives us an intriguing and highly enjoyable tale of crime on the Dales. Ben Cooper is hard pushed to keep his mind on a newly-kindled missing persons case that directly ties up with a fresh murder victim discovered in a derelict hill-side pub, while constantly being dragged away by his fiancee to make wedding arrangements. (I'd go prod the corpse with a stick any day of the week) Meanwhile Diane Fry returns to Edendale as part of a newly formed serious crimes unit and adds to Cooper's woes by always seemingly being one step ahead of Edendale's finest.
Got to say I love these books. At times languid and conducted at a steady walking pace then smashing through the gears and dragging you along relentlessly to the finish line. Can't wait for the next one.
on 27 September 2013
This is my introduction to Stephen Booth's 'Cooper & Fry' Series. The novel is set in the imagined Peak District town of Edendale and its imagined surroundings.
There was much to enjoy in the story and it certainly kept me engaged. A cold case investigation into the disappearance, without a trace, of a tourist couple in a snowstorm two years ago runs in parallel with a murder investigation in a summer of fires on the peak moorlands. A common link in both cases is the isolated pub the 'Light House' formerly called 'The Burning Woman' on the top of the peak. (Both names are oblique clues) It's cut off by snow in the winter and in jeopardy from the hill fires in the summer. The pub is presided over by a taciturn landlord until a failed re-financing package leads to failure of the business. When the story opens the pub is lying empty and boarded up waiting an auction day. There are lots of strong characters, well drawn by the author.
Ben Cooper is the detective sergeant to whom the cold case is delegated and his former colleague Diane Fry comes back to Edendale as part of the Serious Crimes Squad to investigate the new murder. Their relationship is frosty, she's dismissive of the country town police and she seems to have no redeeming features. Ben on the other hand is neck deep in wedding plans and his fiance'Liz occupies all his free time, very sweet and 'lovey dovey'.
This is where I felt my lack of 'back story'. By starting to read the series with this book I really felt the lack of context and lack of understanding of what the issues were and are between Cooper & Fry after whom the series is named. In this book they are just two competing detectives who clearly do not get on and only just manage to remain civil to each other for most of the time. There has to be more to it than that - they clearly have a past that I don't know about. I will have to go back to the earlier books to get that understanding and if you haven't read any of this series I suggest you do likewise.
Cooper and his colleagues are out and about Edenvale and its imaginary environs a lot. Shooting off to this farm or that pub on the hill. I found this a bit problematic. The author spends a lot of time on detailed descriptions of towns, villages, streets and moors in the Edenvale world but I never really understood where the places were in relation to each other. So all the detailed descriptions fell on blind eyes. Maybe a simple sketch map of where the key places are in relation to each other would have helped me.
The story builds to a dramatic crescendo with life-changing consequences and finishes with some satisfyingly loose ends.
on 29 September 2013
I love Stephen Booth's crime series featuring Cooper and Fry.
He brings the Peak district into sharp relief, and as usual connects
some real life threads into the novel. This instance it is peak fires, which do
immense damage to the landscape.
Cooper and Fry remain at arm's length, though the surprising end of the story
resurrects some future possibility that they might - despite themselves find a shared future.
Please keep them coming, Mr Booth - I walk in your literary footsteps whenever I am in the Peak!
on 14 November 2013
a well crafted book enjoyable throughout. I will be looking out for other books to follow up with on the Derbyshire scene.
This is a brilliant novel in Booth's long running series featuring Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. As ever, the setting is one of the best aspects; a deserted, isolated pub set high on the moors, surrounded by burning peat as a result of arson is one of the most darkly atmospheric in the series. Several crimes intersect with each other in a complex plot that explores the failing pub trade, family loyalty and financial misdemeanours. Cooper and Fry are reunited, to the displeasure of both. Their relationship is now openly hostile and they spar with each other frequently. Murfin is rapidly approaching retirement and has adopted a confrontational outlook, while Cooper and Liz are also busy with wedding planning, causing further tension. As the layers of the plot unfold, the novel builds to a traumatic conclusion as the final pieces fall into place. Brilliant.