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Stephen Booth - Dancing with the Virgins
I have only recently started to read books by Stephen Booth, I had seen them on the shelf but was never inspired enough by the blurbs or the cover, which in this case I was judging the book by. Then on a recent trip to the in laws I saw that my partners mother had the complete set and when asked rated them highly. I still had some unexplainable scepticism but with money being tight and the chance to have access to a whole load of books was too good to miss. I did first read the first book in this series, Black Dog, and although I felt it was a bit slow overall it was a good quality book and I wanted to keep on reading the series and give the author a fair chance.
"Dancing with the Virgins" is set in the Peak District, in this case literally in the hills that are more or less the middle of nowhere. The book starts with us following a park ranger and his travels in the wilderness on his first day solo in the job, we then quickly change and start following the story of a youngish woman as she is cycling through those same hills on what for her is a regular trip. She likes to visit a certain spot in the hills called the Nine Virgins and I don't think I am going to spoil anything for anyone by stating the obvious that she is murdered (I'll leave how a mystery) and is found by the previously mentioned park ranger.
This book actually has a pretty good and quick start compared to the opener of the series as I struggled to get going with that but had no problems with this. This story is played out through the same main character as used in Black Dogs, Ben Cooper. Ben Cooper is a policeman and as we see right from the off in this book he is a team player, at least in the context of his job he is. However he is living in the legacy left his father who was recently killed in the line of duty (comes before Black Dog) and feels that he needs to live up to the expectations of what his Dads son must be like. Ben is actually coping ok with that and is the local boy that everybody loves and he is so friendly and has such an in depth knowledge of the area, the kind of knowledge that would aid a police investigation into a murder that has taken place in the hills. He has several distractions throughout the case, an ill mother, a potential love interest and of course a kind of enemy from within the police force itself.
The potential partner is of course the love interest from the first book, Helen, she featured in the first book and it appeared that things between these two stood a chance of going places and now they have a date arranged. Of course things are not going to be simple with Ben working on a murder case and of course there is always the other woman, well sort of. The enemy that I referred to is not so much an enemy as another member of the police force, in this case a policewomen who came in from the outside and stole his promotion.
I feel that throughout the book Booth using a good mix of characters and they complement each other nicely and certainly help to make the book more than just a rubbish typical murder mystery which after reading 200 or so books in the genre get a bit boring. My only problem with the way that the book is written is that Stephen Booth likes his details and I mean really like his detail and I feel that this is the one thing the stops me from really relishing picking up this book. Sure I don't want every book to be like a James Patterson book which is normally over so quickly but I feel that this guy drones on and on a but unnecessarily and not in a way that is adding to the story, it is just like there is a word threshold that must be met and padding has been inserted to achieve this. In my opinion this would be a better read, a more enjoyable read and more approachable if some of the useless wordy stuff was removed, maybe I am just too young to appreciate the wordy bits (no offence intended towards the mother in law) but I find there are pages and pages where not a lot happens and I think if I had skipped them then I would not have taken anything away from the book. Maybe Stephen Booth is trying to do the opposite of CSI and make things seem more realistic whereby stuff happens at a more real life pace but this is not what you want in a book, well it is not what I want in a book, I want fast paced action with detail to match but not exceed the action.
The above criticism is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book or that nothing at all happens because I did and it does. It is still a good read, you have intrigue, you have mystery, you have twists and of course you have murder I would just say it is not as easy on the mind or as thrilling as a lot of the other books out there on the book shelves.
I must admit that I have not looked to see whether Stephen Booth is from but considering where the book is based I would suggest it is likely that it is in the Peak District and you really get the impression that the author knows this area well and know his way round. The lay of the land is laid out really nicely to the reader and you get a good feel of where you are supposed to be.
Overall this is a good book but I was left skimming little bits due to some of the 550 pages that have been published (at least in the version I have) in a fairly small font. I would probably enjoy this book more if it was not this long due to too much detail. Bearing in mind that I had free access to this book I am pleased with it, I am however happy with my initial assessment in the shop and if I had purchased this for the RRP then I would have been disappointed and I probably won't be buying any Stephen Booth books.