AUTHOR: STEPHEN BOOTH
Details: no. 11 Ben Cooper & Diane Fry
When a woman is found dead in her kitchen, with her husband severely injured in the living room, it appears to Detective Sergeant Ben Cooper and his colleagues that they’re dealing with a home invasion and robbery gone wrong. The surrounding area has seen lots of break-ins in the recent past, all credited to a gang named the Savages by the press, and although those earlier crimes didn’t involved murder, this one appears to fit the profile.
Riddings, the village in which the crime has taken place is a very affluent place with expensive properties and lots of security and privacy measures, yet no one appears to have seen or heard anything, apart from one man, the self-appointed neighbourhood watcher. It is also an area with lots of spoken and unspoken tension and resentment between neighbours.
When another break-in takes place, resulting in one person dying from fright, Ben Cooper starts to have doubts about the Savages being involved. His hunches have been spot on in the past, but he knows not to share them until he can find some prove. He is convinced though that the reason behind these attacks should be sought in Riddings itself, and not in some outside gang.
In the end, it will be surrounding area and specifically the sinister mountain ridge called the Devil’s Edge which will provide the answers Cooper needs, as well as a dramatic finale and one more death.
Meanwhile Diane Fry has been side-lined and finds herself going to workshops about police reorganisation. When disaster strikes close to Ben Cooper’s life though, it will be Fry who oversees the case and provides the answers, with Cooper having to worry from far away.
Stephen Booth’s Cooper and Fry mysteries are always well plotted and realistic. His stories seem all too plausible and true to life, which makes them scarier than a spectacular crime plot could ever be.
In these atmospheric books the surrounding area with it’s moors and danger spots is as much of a character as the humans are, adding a darkness all of its own. The descriptions of the landscapes are almost better and easier to visualise then Booth’s portraits of his human characters.
Booth writes realistic characters though. Nobody is without faults and weaknesses, although some have more then others. While Cooper is an overall sympathetic character, Diane Fry has too many personal issues and is too self-obsessed to win much sympathy from the reader. The interaction between Fry and Cooper is fascinating though, even if there wasn’t a lot of it in this book. I do hope that Booth will resolve Fry’s future soon so that she can play a bigger part in future stories and get back to her complicated but fascinating relationship with Ben Cooper.
The last few paragraphs of the book in which new character Carol Villiers, a childhood friend and new colleague of Cooper’s, is seen by him getting into Fry’s car leaves intriguing possibilities for future developments. Hopefully the wait until we find out more won’t be too long.