THERE’S NO PADDY-WHACKERY IN MCGAHERN’S SIXTH BOOK, JUST A HEART WARMING TALE OF IRISH RURAL LIFE

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That They May Face CvrEvery year in March sees one of the biggest events of the global calendar, this is of course St. Patrick’s day, who is the patron saint of Ireland and all things Irish. So, while more and more countries celebrate the 17th of March by turning rivers, large iconic buildings and instantly recognisable monuments green; it also a time to reflect on what Ireland has given the international community. One of its biggest exports apart from Guinness and Arran jumpers is literature and recently the book club had the chance to read another well-known Irish writer. This month’s book is, That They May face The Rising Sun, by John McGahern, published by Faber & Faber in 2002.

The title may make you think, as it did with me, that it is set in some theatre of war, possibly in Asia, but it all takes place in peace time Ireland. The story follows the lives of Joe and Kate Ruttledge, for the first year after they have returned home from London to Kate’s home town in the border region of Ireland. The town is full of charming and quirky characters, each with their own problems and various idiosyncrasies. The Ruttledge’s spend most of their time in the company of their friends and neighbours from across the lake, Mary and Jamesie.

This book may not have much going on in the story-line, it charts the comings and going on in this small rural town-land, like a diary of sorts without chronological references. Just subtle indications to the gradual changing of the  seasons, but McGahern’s charming little tale doesn’t require a big block busting pacey driven plot to keep you engrossed. The characters who are all excellently drawn and diverse, latch on to you and keep the reader turning the pages. There’s the town bachelor, the local business man, who is nicknamed “The Shah”, who helps life move by oiling the cogs of the local economy, but can can’t let go of the reins of the business to his only employee and a local cripple who is left mentally and physically scarred by his tragic upbringing. At the centre of it are the Ruttledge’s, a happy go lucky couple who have no real cares in the world and the only real threat to their new existence is the offer of a job back in London, by Kate’s old boss.

John McGahern

John McGahern

It appears Joe and Kate met while working for the same company in London, but Joe seems to have left their former employer under a cloud which isn’t explained but is hinted at, now he farms and does consultancy work.

There is a lot of humour in the book and drinking too! Every single page seems to have the characters calling into see each other and having large glasses of Irish whiskey.  The characters have little or no malice in them, even where is a malicious intent, it is portrayed in a humorous almost darkly comical light. Take the towns eligible bachelor, who finally takes a woman to the alter but is really only marrying her for her dowry, cooking and cleaning skills. The reception is held in the grounds of a big local house and he, being quite unsure of social niceties literally takes her in the biblical sense on a hill in full view of the guests… This may shock some, but through the way Maghern tells the story, you are left with a shocked smirk on face, as if to say, did he actually do that?

This is not twee Irish, there’s nothing Darby O’Gill about it or any stereotypical

Irish RM Cast

Brian Murray & Peter Bowles

characters in the book, it had for me reminders of the Irish RM, a British TV series that ran on Channel 4 starring British actor Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born) and Irish actor Brian Murray (Brookside) back in the eighties. What you get from this book after reading it is a warm fluffy feeling as if you have just spent a week in the in a stone whitewashed cottage in the west of Ireland.

 

This Irish writer John McGahern’s sixth of seven novels, in all he wrote fifteen books the others were collections of short stories and one play The Power of Darkness. His other novels include The Barracks (1963), The Dark (1965), The Leave Taking (1974), The Pornographer (1979) and Amongst Women (1990). Born in 1934 he trained as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer. He won numerous awards both in Ireland and Internationally for his work and his book, Amongst Women was made into a four-part TV series for BBC. He died in 2006.

If there’s a downside to That They May See The Rising Sun, it’s a little confused as to what era its set. All the descriptions point to possibly late sixties early seventies. But there are references to one of characters watching the ITV show Blind Date which was hosted by Cilla Black between 1985 and 2003 and in another paragraph, they talk about the moon landings as if only happened the day before, which took place in 1969.

So, if you are looking for a charming, homely Irish book to read by an outstanding contributor to Irish literature, that is full of wit and will leave you feeling happy and contented at the end, while also itching to visit the emerald isle and kiss the Blarney Stone, this is the one for you. So, head in to your local book shop or download a copy. Open your drinks cabinet and find a nice Irish whiskey and settle down for a great read, especially with another cold snap planned for Easter period.

THE GAME ENDS FOR BALDACCI’S LATEST AFTER THE FIRST CHAPTER

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End Game Cvr UKMetro’s , underground tube and train networks are an excellent way of servicing vast cities, such as New York, London ,Paris and Moscow . To the uninitiated they can be complicated and confusing.  Even myself, whilst quite used to the London tube, has to stop every now and then, disrupting the torrent of bodies flowing through this vast underground network, to get my bearings. Then on other occasions, I’ll mutter under my breathe at disorientated tourists as they do likewise. This brings me on to this month’s second book, End Game by David Baldacci, published by MacMillan www.macmillan.com in October 2017.

What’s confusing about  this book is that the blurb on the book and the cover images on the front bear no resemblance to the story inside. Ok, for one chapter they do, the first one. After that it’s a totally different story.

According to the blurb on the back, Will Robie an assassin for US Government has 24 hours to save London from a  threat by terrorists to attack the underground, with the United States their next target. While the front cover image shows male and female silhouettes walking along a London underground platform.

What actually happens, is that Robie kills all the terrorists single-handedly in a house in central London and saves the lives of 17 million Londoners all within the first fifteen pages!!! For the other three hundred and ninety one, he and his fellow agent Jessica Reel (who never goes near London), mooch about the wilds of Colorado looking for their boss “BlueMan”, who has gone missing while on vacation in his home town. Managing to cross swords with a Neo-Nazi group and in Robie’s case get romantically involved with the local sheriff in the process, all while trying to sort out their own complicated romantic history.

This isn’t the first David Baldacci novel I’ve read, the other was Split Second from his King and Maxwell series. Again like this book it was pacey and full of action but at least the blurb on the back and the front cover had some connection with the whole story inside.

David Baldacci

David Baldacci

The story in the remaining three hundred plus pages of End Game is interesting if not slightly weakened by the constant distraction of the front cover, which keeps making the reader wonder where the connection to the threat to London and the sixteen terrorists Robie had dispatched in the first part of the book, is going to emerge. It doesn’t, it’s as if Baldacci had an idea for a book, but realised it was just a short story and decided to weld another half decent story onto the end of it. If that’s the case, his editor should be demoted to editing road signs or billboards.

American Author Baldacci (www.davidbaldacci.com) has written nearly forty books which have sold more 130 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 45 languages. A good few have been adapted for film and television. He started writing from a young age, when his mother gave him a lined copy book to keep him quiet. His first book, “Absolute Power,” was published in 1996.  He lives in Virginia, where he and his wife also run their Wish You Well Foundation,a non-profit organization, which supportsEnd Game Cvr US literacy efforts across the country.

While researching this review, I saw on David’s website that the American version of the book has a different cover, which is common. At least it shows a male and female silhouette running through a Coloarado-esque landscape. With so many dedicated fans, I don’t see why David or the editors and marketing teams at Macmillan deemed it ok to take the UK / Irish readers for fools. So, if you are looking for a half decent read, which can be slightly distracting if you are reading a non-American copy, then go and get a copy. Otherwise, any of Baldacci’s other books are a better bet.

I HAVE MORE THAN A FEW BONES TO PICK WITH GORMAN’S DEBUT

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bone-and-bloodCvrSome books are said to be read like a swimming pool, you leave it there and dip in and out when you feel like it. That’s usually reserved for reference books or coffee table behemoths and other  handy door stops. Most books are treated like a meal owing to the way stories are usually laid out with a starter, mains and dessert. This brings me to the first book review of 2018. It’s Bone and Blood : A Berlin Novel by Margo Gorman, published by Matador www.troubador.co.uk in September 2014.

Bone and blood follows the relationship between Aisling and her great aunt Brigette when they are thrown together in Berlin following the death of Brigette’s daughter Katherina from cancer. Aisling, a university student from Dublin, wrangles a trip to Berlin to represent her family at the funeral, thinking it would be a great chance to see the city. However,  she is forced to share her great aunts house, when in stark opposite to Irish burial times there is a three-week wait on Katherina’s funeral. While sharing the house with someone almost four times her age, she starts to get to know her great aunt and delves into Brigette’s past and how an Irish woman came to spend most of her life in Germany. Through their conversations Aisling discovers Brigette was imprisoned in a concentration camp outside Berlin during the war. But what of Katherina’s father? Where did they meet ? How did Brigette get out of the camp and will Aisling get enough material for a graphic novel telling her great aunts story?

I didn’t like this book, because there was a lot of bones in this story (Think Herring / Mackerel) and gristle too, which made it rather tough to chew and get through. Harking back to my meal reference in the opening lines of the review. If this book was a meal, then the starter should set you up for the main course, but if that  isn’t very good , as in this case, then the rest of the meal turns out to be a let-down and struggles to keep the diner interested.  The first chapter of this book is over complicated and rather hard to decipher and gives no indication as to where the reader or the story is going.

Another point against this debutante Irish writers book, is that there are too many characters to keep track of, especially when you take into account that this was a book group selection and with most book groups you have a certain time scale with which to read a book; in our group its a month. In my case, this period was further reduced to a week, owing to my other reading commitments. This doesn’t allow  one much leeway for over-complicated beginnings. The chapters after that do start to come into focus to an extent but there are still a lot of threads in this story which one must try and keep hold of.  In my own  case I gave up half way through.

The book had a mixed reception at the book group in December at which it was discussed, but myself and a small contingent railed against the general good reports of the other members and were quite scathing. Which sort of came back to bite us, when after an hour’s discussion, the host promptly introduced a surprise guest…. Margo Gorman herself, who was a friend of the host, had been upstairs writing and had heard none of the mixed reviews downstairs.  My wife said she’d never seen me so lost for words, especially when Margo was seated next to me. I did gather my composure along with the others and in a lively and light-hearted discussion afterwards, Margo admitted that she was aware that there was a lot going on in the book and that her editor has asked her to trim the next book down and keep it to one or two main threads.

Margo Gorman

Margo Gorman

This is Irish Author Margo Gorman’s first novel (www.margogorman.com) , although having worked with international bodies for a number of years she has written numerous books and reports for them. She was educated by Seamus Heaney  in Belfast and now divides her time between Donegal and Germany.

The informal questions & answer session over wine, cheese and mince pies with Margo, also covered her inspiration for the book which came about because of a work trip she made to Ravensbruk concentration camp a couple of years ago, where she discovered the stories of Irish women who were imprisoned there and in other camps during the war.

I wouldn’t dissuade you from reading this book, but it can be a bit of a challenge and as I mentioned in our discussion at the book group, there are easier works of fiction inspired by the holocaust to read. Namely Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson which I reviewed last October. But, yes if you want to support a new Irish writer, go down to your local book shop and pick up a copy, but make sure its read in good company, preferably a very nice glass of wine.

YOU’LL BE DYING TO READ TUOMAINEN’S LATEST AND WILL LAY IT TO REST WITH SMILE ON YOUR FACE

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The Man Who Died CvrAccording to the poet James Shirley, “There is no armour against fate….”  It’s only really in science fiction series like Dr. Who, for example, as we witnessed again over the festive period, can the main character regenerate. Certain religions such as Buddhists, Sikh’s and Hindu’s believe in re-incarnation. In reality most of us feel that death is the final act and as I write this piece there are people in hospital wards or at home for whom that final act is quite close, or who have been told that is a lot closer than they might have hoped.  This brings us on to  the second this month, its The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk )  in November 2017.

Jaako Kaunisma is a successful businessman who along with his wife Tainia runs a leading Finnish Mushroom export company. That is, until one day, his doctor tells the 37-year-old he is dying. He is being poisoned to be exact, by a naturally occurring substance. What would most people, me included do in situation like this? Probably become inconsolable and a blubbering mess. Not our Jaako. He immediately sets out to find the perpetrator and soon the list starts to grow, beginning with his wife who he discovers is having an affair with one of the company’s young pickers. Then a second mushroom export company sets up shop just down the street, run by three nefarious brothers, with strangely brand-new top of the range equipment and connections with Jaako’s Japanese customers. When the brothers catch Jaako on CCTV wandering around their factory and subsequently a prized samurai sword goes missing, the police get involved. Jaako suddenly finds himself trying to stay one step ahead the police along with the three heavy handed brothers, while all the while attempting to track down his killer and deal with the side effects of the poison in his system. Will he save his marriage and or find the killer before the grim reaper comes calling?

When the main character of the book is told in the first chapter that he is terminally ill, you don’t really expect much from them. Utter shock maybe followed by a melancholy review of his life. What you get from Antti Tuomainen’s book is curve ball straight out of left field, that smacks you right between the eyes and takes you on one of the better reads of the year. As well as a lead character in Jaako who is atypical to the normal reaction to this type of event.

Tuomainen walks a fine line in this book, showing respect in trying to deal with the very difficult subject of death and blowing the normal out of the water with a humorous feel good read. It is packed with dark and irreverent humour that laughs in the face of death. At times it did feel slightly farcical, but Antti keeps it on the right side of believable humour, as well as maintaining a deeply engrossing thriller.

I loved the skilled way in which he places hero Jaako in tricky if not sometimes deadly situations while on his one man quest to discover the identity of his poisoner and has him get out of the various scrapes by some weird twist of fate, which usually leaves someone else far worse off. No more so, than when coming up against the three brothers who mysteriously set up in competition to him a couple of doors away on the same road in the same small town. Also the dinner scene near the end when his wife and her lover get their comeuppance is hilarious for its descriptive style alone.

As well as that considering some of Jaako’s eating habits, in an attempt to keep his failing

Jason statham -Crank

Jason Statham – Crank

body stocked full of energy and the things he did to stay alive, brought back memories of Jason Statham’s ‘Crank’ series of films. Statham’s character has an hour to  get his heart back from drug lords, while it has been replaced by a commercial battery,  he must keep it charged up to give  him energy as he fights his way across LA. This involves  connecting himself to a car battery and getting amorous with total strangers.

This is Finnish Author Antti Tuomainen’s (www.anttituomainen.com) fourth book and in doing so is a departure from his previous three deeply dark thrillers which include. The Healer (2013), Dark As My Heart (2013) and The Mine (2016). He was a successful copywriter when he started writing in 2007 and has won numerous awards both in his homeland and Internationally for his writing.

The only real down side, is the ending and the discovery of the killer, the reason for the poisoning is a rather damp squib, considering what Jaako has been through to find out their identity.

Antti Toumainen

Antti Toumainen

So if you are looking for a an engaging and light-hearted thriller to brighten up the dark winter evenings over the Christmas period or into the early days of 2018, get on your bike to the local book shop or download it.

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This is our last post of 2017, I’d like to take this opportunity from everyone at The Library Door to wish all our followers a Happy and Prosperous New Year and hope you have enjoyed our reviews this year. Thanks again to the Authors and Publishers (especially Karen O’Sullivan at Orenda) who supplied us with books and we look forward to more in the new year.

If you are an author or publisher and would like to send us an Advance Review Copy, please don’t hesitate to contact us through the site or on twitter at @apaulmurphy .

Adrian Murphy – Bray, Ireland, December  2017

MALONE’S SIXTH BOOK IS LESS SPINE-TINGLE AND MORE FAIRY TALE

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House-of-Spines CvrDo you know what links Carrie Fisher, Vincent Van Gogh and Ranald McGhie? No idea?You’re probably asking yourself who Ranald McGhie is? Never mind what links them all. Well they all suffer from Bipolar Disorder, a mental affliction, which according to the Health Service Executive in Ireland affects 1 in 100 people. Researching a list of people with bipolar disorder for this article, draws up at least 59 other well-known faces, currently and historically, who may have been affected, including Abraham Lincoln and Charles Dickens.

As for Ranald Mcghie, he’s the central character in this month’s book. Its “The House of Spines” by Michael J. Malone. Published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk)  at the end of October- Halloween to be exact.

Ranald is a jobbing text book writer in his home town of Glasgow, who has never really come to terms with deaths of his parents and as result of his condition has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals.  One day he is summoned to the offices of a large law firm in the city. There he discovers that he’s been left something in the will of his great grandfather on his mother’s side, someone he knows very little about, due his mother being mysteriously disowned by the family.  His inheritance is Newton Hall, an expansive old pile in a salubrious suburb of the city. It appears that Ranald’s great grandfather had him watched from birth, with every intention of making him the sole beneficiary and guardian of this property and its contents. The said contents are books, hundreds of them, filling every nook and cranny.  From the moment Ranald arrives in the house, he is in awe of what greets him, whole wardrobes of fine clothes in his exact size, a middle aged married couple who act as house keeper and gardener, a pool and a garage housing a couple of expensive cars – which would be fine if he’d ever learned to drive.

Ranald decides to use the house as a fresh start, maybe even a way to rehabilitate his mental instability, so he goes off his meds, starts swimming and using the gym in the house. Then strange things start happening. He is seduced by a number of local women within hours of arriving at the house. He also starts having vivid dreams involving a mysterious woman and repeatedly sleep walking to a lift in the house along with a strange unnerving feeling about the place.  If this wasn’t enough, he is then visited by two estranged cousins who seem to have ulterior motives for visiting him that may involve selling the property to a developer. Can Ranald discover the identity of the woman in the dreams, discover the mystery behind his mother’s falling out with her family and keep the property from the clutches of his relations? Or is it all in his mind…

One Bi-polar sufferer says of their condition ”.. this mind of mine is deeper than most people care to swim…”. If you throw in the addition of a vast lonely house and you get to the setting and ambience this story is trying to achieve.

When you start reading the book, the house comes across in Malone’s descriptions as a

Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle

cross between Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle and the Walt Disney castle, with a bit of Hogwarts merged in for good measure. It’s a vast palace with many wings and floors, as well as towers, pools and large imposing book lined studies. Something a lotto millionaire would build on a whim as a result losing the run of himself. It basically comes across as a folly, especially when you consider the only occupant is a troubled divorcee.

I initially loved the feel-good factor from the book as we followed Ranald on his voyage of discovery around the house and the amazing things he finds at every turn in the house. The numerous bedrooms with fine linen and furnishings. The pool, well placed easy reading chairs and couches placed liberally about the house so that the occupant could read where or wherever they felt inclined. It has a real fairy-tale feel to it.

But then when the spirit or the assumption that there is something paranormal attached to the house, starts to get involved and this shortly followed by the arrival of the two cousins, a well-heeled scotch loving criminal lawyer and a his strangely quiet and reserved sister. Along with the straight laced smarmy lawyer who acts as executor, things start to follow a very formulaic Disney-esque route. We were only short of an evil stepmother and a poisoned apple, although later events involving Ranald being blackmailed into being prescribed an increased dosage of his meds are a modern version.

The Bipolar aspect of Ranald’s character, lends itself to the story and helps us to see him for the damaged person he is and how vulnerable someone is his condition can be, when they come into contact with strong minded and devious characters. Overall there is no real sense that Newton hall is haunted, just the creepy feeling left by the fact that Ranald’s grandfather was stalking him and that most of the things that our hero, experiences are probably down to his stopping medication.

Michael J Malone

Michael J. Malone

This is Scottish author and poet Michael Malone’s (@michaeljmalone1) sixth novel, his others include: Carnegie’s Call, The Guillotine’s Choice, The Taste of Malice, Beyond Rage, The Bad Samaritan, Dog Fight and A Suitable Lie.   Malone is a regular reviewer for the crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com and in a previous life was a regional sales manager for Faber & Faber.

The book is not as scary as it is portrayed and if you think Ranald is up against the house, his mental frailties and the conniving manipulative machinations of his relatives on his own, you are wrong. He has in his corner his ex-wife and a former neighbour.

So, if you are looking for a spine tingling, nerve jangling, bump in the night book. This isn’t it.

GUSTAWSSON LAYS THE FIRST BLOCK IN NEW CRIME SERIES

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BLOCK 46 COVER AW.inddGreat things come in pairs they say, hands, eyes, ears. More practical things include comfy shoes; or slippers that you yearn to slip into after work and the soft white pillows which take you to the land of nod each evening. Then there are things that you wished didn’t come in pairs, but usually have a habit of doing so, such as buses and taxis.

Great detectives usually come in pairs as well. There have been some great partnerships in crime fiction down through the years, such as The Hardy Boys, Agatha Christies Poirot and Hastings and Tommy and Tuppence as well as more recently Morse and Lewis. These have been male dominated. There have been a few female duo’s: take Rizzoli and Isles for example and  not forgetting eighties TV cop duo Cagney and Lacey. This brings us to this month’s  second book review, which sees the introduction of a brand new all-female crimefighting partnership. It’s Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.com) in May of this year.

 

When the mutilated body of a talented jewelry designer is found in a bleak snow swept marina in Sweden, her friends and family travel from London to recover the body. Among them is her close friend, French true crime writer Alexis Castells. She starts to do some digging of her own into the case. In the local police station she bumps into an old associate, Emily Roy  (a profiler for the RCMP Royal Canadian Mounted Police) who is on loan to Scotland Yard. Her reason for being in the same place at the same time? The body of a boy was found on Hampstead Heath in London with the same wounds. Is this the work of a serial killer or a weird coincidence? The two women team up and work the case hopping back and forth across the North Sea. As they do, they discover a link to a World War Two concentration camp. Can the two women get to the bottom of this mystery before the killer strikes again or before culprit turns from pursued to pursuer?
Of the two world wars, the WW2 and the Holocaust has provided writers with a vast and rich vein of material with which to blame the evil deeds of criminals on. Block 46 is no exception. What Gustawsson does is mix the bloody reality of Schindler’s list with Scandi Noir and in doing so produces a very enjoyable and original novel.

 

Johanna Gustawsson

Johanna Gustawsson

What first excited me about this book when it landed on my hall floor was the dramatic picture on the cover. The silhouette of a lone figure in hat and coat walking between two barbed wire fences, all too familiar as those of a concentration camp. But also, combined with the title, they recall images seen on the numerous grainy news reels of that period.
The two main characters are hardly strangers and have some history which is easily explained, thus allowing the story to flow seamlessly, without having to go through a long-winded and roundabout introduction which in some instances distracts from a story. They are also different in their own way, just like Holmes and Watson, Castells is the grounded one who keeps the Canadian Roy, with her unique investigative techniques and strange habits, grounded. It will be interesting to see how the two characters develop over the coming books.

 
I’m a little bemused as to why the author needed a translator of the book as it seems she has been living and working in the UK for many years. So, if you can walk into Sainsbury’s and buy a pint of milk or order a drink at a bar or even a meal from a menu. Why do you feel you need to have a translator rewrite your book? OK, there are a few easy explanations, she finds it easier to write in her native French or possibly that the book was originally written in French.

 
Another thing that did get me was the sudden wrapping up of things at the end. It seemed unrealistically quick. Suddenly one of our heroine’s is in mortal danger and next the cavalry rides in out of nowhere. It’s as if Johanna got tired near the end of the story and just decided to save them and neatly wrap it up.
This is French born Gustawsson’s second book, her first “On Se Retrouvera” which means We will meet each other again.Was adapted for French television in 2015 and watched by over 7 million viewers. She has worked previously for the French press and television, before moving to her adopted home of England with her Swedish husband. She is currently writing the second book in the Roy & Castells series.
So, if you are looking for a new twist on Scandi Noir and the creation of a new crime fighting double act with a very international flair to it, then this is right up your street. I will with wait with bated breath for the next instalment in this series. Meanwhile you can stop off at your local book shop and get it or download it.

DON’T BE LEFT IN THE DARK BY MISSING BOOTH’S 17TH COOPER & FRY BOOK.

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dead in drk cvrBorn in Loscoe, Derbyshire, I was raised as an inner city child in Nottingham. Like my ancestors did, I escaped the noise and grime of industrial city life to the fresh air and space of the Peak District national park regularly. Initially on family days out and caravan holidays to the ‘White peak’ and later in my teens on camping and hiking weekends to the northern end of the park, known as the Dark Peak.

The White and Dark refer to differences in the geology of the regions but the author of this months book  casts a dark shadow over the county, even to those of us who might be lulled into a false sense of security by childhood memories, its Dead In The Dark by Stephen Booth, published by Sphere (www.littlebrown.co.uk/sphere) in July 2017.

‘Dead in the Dark’ is the latest novel featuring Ben Cooper and Diane Fry and the seventeenth in Booth’s series, which includes ‘Dancing With The Virgins’  (which won the CWA Gold Dagger in 2001) , ‘Blood On The Tongue’, ‘Scared To Live’, ‘Lost River’ and the 16th was ‘Secrets of Death’ in (2016). ‘Dead In The Dark’ was this reviewers introduction to his work and whilst I was able to enjoy it as stand alone story, it has inspired me to go back to the beginning with ‘Black Dog’ and start to read my way through the long list between their debut and the current story.

Stephen Booth

Stephen Booth

Stephen Booth (www.stephen-booth.com) was born in Lancashire, lived in Yorkshire and now in Nottinghamshire but although he worked on a Derbyshire newspaper, apparently never lived in Derbyshire. Despite this the locations are accurate and perfectly described. I had presumed he lived there and had a farming background. I loved the descriptions of the countryside and was more on Cooper’s side than Diane’s in relation to the attractions of rural life. Stephen Booth has worked as journalist on various midland newspapers, on the Farming Guardian and as a specialist rugby writer on national papers. He also developed an interest in farming, breeding goats. All these aspects of his experience come together in the books. They say you should write about what you know and Stephen certainly knows his stuff.

 
The two main characters in this and his other novels are an interesting duo. Ben Cooper is a local man. His dad was a policeman before him and his brother farms the family farm. Diane Fry is an urbanite, raised in foster care, she moved to Derbyshire to improve her chances of promotion and escape traumatic memories. In most detective novels, detective partnerships the two participants are unevenly matched, in that one is the lead and the other is the one who can’t put the clues together but is loyal and comes to the aid of the lead when required. The duo get on well, the senior explaining things (to the readers benefit) to the junior. Often, I’ve found there’s a difficult relationship with staff higher up the chain of command to allow the duo to challenge authority. Well, while this may be the pattern for many of the most successful crime dramas it’s not the case here! Cooper and Fry are vastly different in their approach and outlook but are often forced to join forces and solve crimes together. From the outset they seem to misunderstand and dislike each other. Fry is logic and protocol driven, whilst Cooper understands people and their motivations. He will often equate a person he meets in the line of enquiries to someone he knows. As Miss Marple pointed out, if you know the people in your village, you know people everywhere.

 
In ‘Dead in the Dark’, Cooper and Fry are more separate. Diane Fry has moved up to the Major Crime unit, whilst Detective Inspector Cooper remains in Bakewell and their paths cross less often. However, Diane Fry is called to Chesterfield to a death which might have links to an operation looking into slave trafficking and Ben Cooper is juggling a cold case and a series of robberies. They meet and exchange cold pleasantries. One of them has a body but no suspects and the other has a suspect but no body. Will the paths of their investigations cross again?
I will say that the only negative comment I have in relation to the books are that so far in my experience there seems to be a brutal animal scene in each book. In some instances, I haven’t felt this adds anything to the plot or to my understanding of characters. It would prevent me recommending them wholeheartedly to some friends. Maybe I’m a little squeamish but I have read that where authors have animal cruelty in their books it loses them readers so maybe it’s not just me?

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A TV series based on the novels has been commissioned and is in development. I hope it is filmed in the glorious Peak District. As I plan to read the rest of the books before watching it. I won’t let the darkness of the novels put me off. I still feel safe and at home walking the hills and introducing the wonders of the National Park to my husband.

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy