I have read several novels by Stephen Booth and its fair to say I like his style of crime mysteries. Recently I received an Amazon voucher and I was keen to fill in some of the gaps in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series. The book I am about to review is book nine of twelve so far published in the series and was released in 2009.
==About the author:==
Stephen Booth was been writing crime fiction since 2000. His background is twenty-five years in journalism. With the majority of this English authors work being in the Cooper and Fry series. Of which the second in the series 'Dancing with the virgins' being nominated in 2001 for the Dagger Award for crime fiction.
==Synopsis of the story:==
A student looking for a place to be away from everything and everyone is shocked to find a dieing man in some derelict buildings. He panics and makes a call to the Police without giving his details on the man's phone. The man body is recovered by the Police and he has died by the time they get there of a head injury. Now they must first discover who the man is, as he has no forms of identification on him and then the young caller who found him.
The investigation falls upon DS Diane Fry and he assistant DC Ben Cooper to unravel this mystery. However added to their problems is a hunt is under-way in the area and that brings with it all the confusion of the Hunt, its organisers and the protesters. Is the dead man something to do with this? Or is simply a victim of circumstance? As his clothes make him look like a businessman, so what has brought him to the out of the way area in the Peak District? Fry and Cooper must try and use all their investigatory skills to solve this mystery.
==My thoughts on the book:==
Having read several of the series I am fortunate enough to have a rough idea about what I am going to get when I purchase a Stephen Booth novel. However I am very disappointed to say I thought this was a very average story and certainly the poorest I have read in the series. I guess every author is entitled to one poor book and for me this was it and I totally disagree with the two national papers critics who praised this story.
I bought this book simply because I had enjoyed all the four other stories I had tried in the series. I thought mistakenly that I would like them all because I find the two leading characters DS Fry and DC Cooper excellent. For me the high quality of writing in description and concepts was still here but it was a story that for me lost its way and I really feel the author was wrong to bring a second story into the investigation as for me this slowed the story down and took away from the quality of the original one. Leaving the reader with an ending that was dull and very disappointing.
The story starts in an unusual and different way with a journal from back in 1968. This is only three pages long but it gives little away and is intriguing as every so often in the book the author returns to this sharing a little more of this journal. So that you learn more about the characters and I spent ages trying to figure out how and why this fitted into the present day crime the Police where investigating.
The second chapter dealt with the student discovering a man in the place he was looking to get away from everyone and everything. And from this the main investigation began. I must admit I enjoyed this and the concept behind this was good and I liked the way this developed as there where lots of possibilities and many paths the story could go down.
What I liked about the main story was the mystery the author created within it. He can tell a really good twisting story only telling the reader what he wants to tell, leaving a lot open to the reader to think about and deduce for himself. This story because of excellent story telling ability was full of mystery and I really liked the way avenues that I had not considered where introduced into it. As there appeared many possibilities and suspects for this investigation to be interviewed and eliminated before a solution could be found.
At this point I was enjoying the book and just a little confused why we kept going back to this 1968 journal as it seemed unrelated and it for me interrupted what I was enjoying. But I expected the author would make it plain the further I went in the story and I would see the relationship and connection between the two. As for me this journal was boring and luckily when it appeared in the book it was short so I could return to the interesting investigation.
However as the main story came to its conclusion I found the pace of the story slowed and while everything was explained I still had well over a 100 pages left to read so I was expected a new and different development that would turn the story on its head. As the answer to this initial story seemed unsatisfactory to me and given the potential of it was a bit of a let down.
This was nothing to what happened next. As the author focused on the two leading characters and their relationship. I found this heavy going as it did not seem to resolve anything and I expected any minute for them to resolve their differences and while I never expected them to end up in each others arms I did expect them to stop misunderstanding the other so that they could get on better together. However nothing seemed to be resolved and the author spent far too much time explaining and expressing how each felt. For me he should have spent more time building this up in the story into some sort of confrontation that actually resolved the issue one way or the other.
The book finished off with the resolution to the Journal of 1968 story. As I said previously I did not find this story of any interest and so I struggled to relate to it. Maybe if this had been the main story it would have been better as I felt this always lacked the clarity and detail I would have hoped for. I never really knew the characters within this and felt the author was simply adding this story on as it would not account for a decent size book on its own. Terribly unfair of me to say all this but it left me thinking this was a poor book when in truth I had enjoyed the other story and the investigation that was the majority of it.
For me the author never should have included the second story. The book should have finished with the solution to the first. So cutting off at least the last 100 or so pages. As I left the book frustrated with both the other story and the lack of any real resolution to the DS Fry/ DC Cooper relationship. Which I am sure will begin again in the next story in the same sense of limbo with nothing resolved which is very frustrating.
That said I do love these two main characters. Having read several of the stories in this series, I have got to know, understand and like both of them as they are very different and complex characters. I have always enjoyed the way they work together and how they seem to spend their time doubting each others motives even when they are being kind and sincere. The annoying thing is despite them knowing each other for a while and working together for a couple of years nothing seems resolved between them and it is like they are not going anywhere. I would have expected their relationship to have moved on by now to either love, hate or accepting they must get along for the sake of the job.
Sadly despite not really enjoying this book I must read the rest of the books in this series as the author usually tells a good Police investigation and I am addicted to the DS Fry and DC Cooper relationship despite it being hard going and seemingly going nowhere. As the romantic even in me would like to see these two finally get together as they are both really great personalities and they deserve having been through so much together to be happy. However I am not sure if this will ever happen as I think this author is too honest and realistic in his thinking to be blinded by romance.
I do not think hand on heart that I can recommend this crime thriller. Yes it was well written but the author should have focused on the one present day story not included the earlier story. This is because the main story was good and unpredictable while the second was too short and dull and required little investigation. The author also focused too much time on the Fry/Cooper relationship without resolving anything that moves the relationship on which was a disappointment for me as I feel we are still in limbo.
Price: 4.79 new at Amazon
Year first published: 2009
More about the author: www.stephen-booth.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS May 2012.