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

GOING OFF SCRIPT PROVES THE BIGGEST FLAW IN WESOLOWSKI’S STORIES

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Sixstry CvrThe British Isles and Ireland are pockmarked with moorland and bogs, from as far south as Dartmoor to the Yorkshire Dales, Rannoch Moor in Scotland and The Burren in the West of Ireland. All through history, as well as in literature, these vast tracts of desolate land have fascinated us. Whether it’s as the roaming area of the fabled Hound of the Baskervilles in Sherlock Holmes, the setting for a doomed love affair between Cathy and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors, the hunting grounds of the reputed beasts of Bodmin Moor or as burial grounds for the Saddleworth Moors victims,the moorlands of Britain and Ireland are notorious for their role in the darker side of life and literature. So they are a great setting for this month’s book. Its “Six Stories” by Matt Wesolowski, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.com) at the end of March.

The book follows a collection of interviews between Scott King, a mysterious investigative journalist, who regularly posts examinations of complicated cases online via Podcasts. This series is called “Six Stories” – in it Scott is looking back over the events surrounding the discovery of a body on Scarclaw Fell in 1997. The body is that of Tom Jeffers, who disappeared from an outdoor adventure centre on the Fell while on a weekend away with an inner-city youth group. No one was ever found guilty of his murder in a court of law but the media had a good go at pinning the blame on various people. The interviews are with members of the youth group and locals who he’s managed to track down ten years later and, who are willing to talk. As the tagline on the cover states, one death six stories, which one is true…

From the front cover to the blurb on the back, everything about this book shouts, Read Me!!! Along with promising a great thriller inside but then you open the book and basically you realise you are reading the transcript of a radio documentary / podcast.

Being a confident public speaker and actor who has trodden the boards in amateur drama, I was able to get over this obstacle by reading aloud and putting my own accents and inflections into the characters, although – this limited me to places I could read the book, thus reading while I was commuting was a no-no.

Alistair Cooke speaks at taping of his 2000th program 'Letter From America' at the British Broadcasting Company's Manhattan studio

Alastair Cooke

I love radio documentaries, In Ireland there is the “Doc on One” which is broadcast weekly on RTE radio – Ireland’s national broadcaster – and has won numerous awards, both in Ireland and abroad. The idea for the Six Stories was inspired by the real-life podcast phenomena “Serial”.  But could I see myself reading the transcripts of either of these shows… No, why?!

Now I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s “Letter from America” which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four from 1946 up until his death in 2004. Cooke wasn’t just a radio journalist but also a print journalist and author of over twenty books. Eleven were his “Letter from America” ,which were the transcripts of said broadcast. The difference between Six Stories and Alistair Cooke’s The Americans’, was that they weren’t broadcast like a radio show, but like a letter or a newspaper column, hence the ease with which I took to Cooke’s books.

This doesn’t take away from Six Stories, despite the style of writing which may put some people off… The mystery at the heart of the story intrigues the reader and keeps you turning the pages until the very end when the killer punch surrounding the mystery is delivered.

This is Newcastle – Upon – Tyne native Matt Wesolowski’s first novel, but not his first

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Alex Wesolowski

book. His first novella The Black Land, a murder mystery set on the Northumberland coast was published in 2013 and his second novella set in Sweden will be published shortly. He started writing horror stories for various publications and anthologies, then in 2015 he won the Pitch Perfect Bloody Scotland competition. He is currently working on his second novel Ashes.

 

This book has been hailed in some quarters as a new departure in thriller writing, but it didn’t really work for me because it’s biggest flaw, was this new departure, which placed it in the wrong media. It will make a better Audio book than it has a printed one. Even then it may struggle to hold its audience.

If this was made into a radio drama it would be one of the best and darkest programmes out there and ripe for a TV adaptation.

So, if you are looking for a new thriller writer and can overcome the unusual writing style of this book, then download it or hike down to your local bookshop and pick up a copy.