As a fan of Booth’s Cooper and Fry series, I was looking forward to reading this standalone mystery . However, disappointment lay between the pages of this much-too-long tome. I can only wonder how lengthy this book was before the editor whittled it down because there was so much more that could have been deleted without losing the tone of the story, which was poor, at best.
Chris Buckley, a not too likeable character, has recently lost his parents, is facing redundancy and has entered into a business partnership in a rather dubious endeavor. He is approached by an elderly man, Samuel Longden, who states that
he is a distant relative of Chris’ and is writing a book about their family history and could use Chris’ help. Chris is not at all interested in any collaboration with Longden and decides to forego a pre-arranged meeting with him only to later learn that Longden has been killed in a hit and run accident.
Longden has left Chris a legacy in his will but only if Chris completes the book. With his finances being severely strained, Chris decides to take on this task. With the introduction of Chris’ extensive family, I found it very confusing as to where to place each person on the family tree and how they were related to one another. In some cases a character would appear briefly, interacting with Chris, and then drop out of the story for another hundred pages, leaving the reader to wonder what their importance was and how they fit into the mystery.
Reading the last page of this book was more of a “thank goodness that’s over” than “what a good story”. I expected more of this author.
Setting has always been an important aspect of Stephen Booth’s novels. In his latest Cooper and Fry mystery, it takes centre-stage. The Peak District in Derbyshire, England, is as majestic and beautiful as it is dangerous. Even the most seasoned hikers have been known to perish on any one of its mountains. DI Ben Cooper is called to the scene when a member of a hiking group is killed in a fall .
But something about the position of the body suggests to Cooper that this was no accident.
As Cooper looks into the lives of each of the members of the hiking party, he discovers that many of them had reason to wish this person dead.
Meanwhile DS Diane Fry has been removed from her duties in order to answer questions in an internal investigation. She soon realizes that she’s going to have to do something that she’s not very good at and that’s to ask for help.
Booth delivers a gripping and exciting story with an ending that will surely take everyone by surprise.
DI Ben Cooper seems very comfortable in his own skin these days even though his job as a DI means more responsibilities. He’s settled into his new digs in Foolow and though the pain of losing his fiancé, Liz, still hurts, time is beginning to heal that wound.
When Reece Bower goes missing, Ben resurrects an old case and investigation. Annette Bower, Reece’s wife, had gone missing ten years previously. Reece was charged with her murder but when a witness came forward claiming to have seen Annette after her disappearance, the case against Reece was dismissed. Everyone believed that Reece was guilty, but without a body, it was hard to prove anything. And now Reece has gone missing and his new wife wants his disappearance investigated. Ben’s investigation takes him into caves and abandoned mines, territory originally searched during the investigation into Annette Bower’s death.
Falling somewhere between a thriller and a “cosy”, Booth’s latest in the Cooper & Fry series provides us with a satisfactory story. There aren’t any graphic or grisly scenes of bodies and no real “eureka” moments, but what we do see is the painstaking work that policing often is.
This isn’t the gripping story that we’re used to reading from Stephen Booth. Maybe it’s because of the loss of familiar characters and the introduction of new ones as E Division goes through some major staff changes: Ben Cooper is now a DI and is still dealing with his grief over losing his fiancé; Diane Fry is a DS with Major Crime in Nottingham; Gavin Murfin has retired from the force and is looking for work in the public sector; and DS Sharma is new to E Division and Ben isn’t quite sure where his loyalties lie. When Mac Kelsey’s transport truck gets stuck under a bridge in the small community of Shawhead and the cab of his truck is covered in blood but he’s nowhere to be found, E Division is set the task of solving his disappearance. Meanwhile, other officers are attending the scene of an apparent suicide. When a link between Kelsey and the suicide, Scott Brooks, is found Ben starts looking back 8 years to the tragic death of Ashley Flynn, Brooks’ fiancé.
Though there isn’t the same frisson of excitement in this book as in previous ones, the very clever conclusion makes up for it.