A neat little psychological thriller in the Barbara Vine tradition, debut novelist Stephen Booth's smart, spare suspense story introduces Detective Constable Ben Cooper, an up-and-coming English policeman who fears he'll never be able to fill the shoes of his father, a police sergeant who died a hero's death on the job in Ben's own precinct. Diane Fry, Ben's new partner, is an ambitious woman who's just been transferred to the Edendale force. She's jealous of Ben's familiarity with the locals, who won't tell her anything but treat Ben like a beloved son. The pair is teamed up to investigate the brutal murder of a 15-year-old girl whose parents, like Fry, are outsiders. The old man who finds Laura Vernon's body is an enigmatic, close-mouthed man who obviously knows more than he's telling, but even Ben can't budge Harry Dickinson from his determination to keep the real story of what happened in the dark woods of England's brooding Peak District to himself. Laura's father is anxious to pin the crime on a local boy who may have had sexual designs on her and who's conveniently gone missing. But the search for the killer turns up the dark secrets of the Vernons as well as a number of other suspects who keep Ben and Diane guessing until the last page of this well-written, carefully paced, and deeply atmospheric novel. A strong first showing from a writer worth watching, with a protagonist who'd be good company in a return engagement. --Jane Adams
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From Publishers Weekly
The cryptic activities of eccentric, uncooperative murder suspect Harry Dickinson add depth to this intriguing first-time offering, a psychological suspense story from a British journalist. Dickinson is one of a triad of macabre old men who haunt the woods and countryside near Edendale in northern England's Peak District. Out walking his black Labrador one sweltering August evening, the retired miner finds a running shoe belonging to Laura Vernon, a 15-year-old reported missing from her mansion on the Mount. Investigating the case is a promising young local detective, Ben Cooper, whose heart is set on a sergeant's post also sought by the Edendale Police Division's icy new up-and-comer, Diane Fry. Personal troublesDCooper's mentally ill mother and memories of his heroic cop father's murder, and Fry's dim recollection of past terrorsDdistract the two from their work, but somehow they patch together a case, sexual tension building between them all the while. The list of suspects, including Dickinson and Laura's wealthy father, Graham Vernon, grows to include the Vernons' gardener and Mrs. Vernon's young lover; Laura's biker boyfriend; and a few business associates of the Vernons'. Cooper is sickened to learn that Vernon's male and female co-workers and clients of his financial consultancy business were often invited to the Mount for orgiesDand that a few may have included Laura. But Cooper, too, is demonstrating increasingly unprofessional behavior, which costs him dearly and deprives Fry of her promotion. Only his brother Matt understands that Cooper may be suffering from the mental "black dog" of his mother's schizophrenia. The leisurely pace and Dickinson's philosophical conversations with his friends on loyalty, death and television detective shows may disappoint readers of fast moving crime fiction, but Booth's intention here, at which he succeeds admirably, is to unveil secret lives against the seemingly placid background of a country village.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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