Tag Archives: Stephen Booth

Friday Faceoff – Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is phones, so I’ve chosen Stephen Booth’s police procedural crime series Scared to Live – Book 7 of the Cooper and Fry series – see my review here.

 

This cover, produced by Harper in Feburary 2009, is really effective. I love this one – the classic telephone box silhouetted against the reddish clouds in the open Derbyshire countryside. I think the fonts have also been very well handled on this cover.

 

This Kindle edition, produced by April 2014 by Witness Impulse, is another very effective cover. The red-hued lane featuring the stone cottages that are popular Derbyshire give this cover a solid sense of place and menace.

 

Published by Bantam in May 2009, this cover is also eye-catching with a particularly arresting title font glowing out of the dark car park facing the inevitable village pub. However, I think it is ruined by that clunky blue block along the bottom that intrudes with information more appropriate on the back.

 

This is the cover that features on the book I own – and was published by Harper Collins in June 2011. Perhaps this is unduly influencing me, but this is my favourite. I love the bleakness and the quirky font. Which one do you like best?

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Teaser Tuesday – 24th January, 2017

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tuesdayTeaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
49% These toiling others, the hair on their legs caked in mud, looked back at us with a kind of furtive themassacreofmankindboldness. And I thought I heard them mutter to each other in an odd, high-pitched, almost gurgling sing-song. It occurred to me that I had not heard the tall humanoids utter a word to each other, and did not even know if they were capable of it; perhaps language had been bred out of them too by their monstrous masters.
‘Then if not from Mars – where, Frank?’
‘They’re from Venus,’ Frank said flatly. ‘The Martians went to that planet, and brought them here to the earth. I think they’re from Venus, Julie. Here in England!’

BLURB:It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared. So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

This is the sequel of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by one of the most established, respected science fiction authors writing today. Has Baxter managed to provide a suitably exciting story with sufficient references to the original book, yet respectful enough that this isn’t just some parody? Oh yes. I think he’s made a cracking job of it and I will be reviewing this book in due course.

Review of The Devil’s Edge – Book 11 of the Ben Cooper & Diane Fry series by Stephen Booth

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This is the latest offering by Stephen Booth, in his crime series set in the Peak District and featuring his two police officers, Ben Cooper and Diane Fry.

The newspapers call them the Savages: a band of home invaders as merciless as they are stealthy. Usually they don’t leave a clue. This devilsedgetime, they’ve left a body. To DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, the case appears open-and-shut – a woman in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor. But then another victim turns up, dead of fright. As the temperature rises, so does the body count, and soon Cooper and Fry realise they’re just pawns in a twisted game… a game that ends in the sinister shadow of the mountain ridge called the Devil’s Edge.

Don’t let the above blurb fool you – the storyline isn’t all about blood, gore and fear. For me, the strength of Booth’s writing is that it is more edgily relevant and contemporary than many crime novels. There is a real feel that this book could only be set right now – featuring the preoccupations about the economic crisis causing police funding cutbacks and stretching resources as widely as possible. As Cooper – who is the main protagonist in this book – struggles to work out just why his instincts are twanging about this case, we are given a ringside seat in the stresses of policing a rural area. Booth’s slow-burn build gives us slices of Cooper’s daily routine, along with the steady accumulation of information and evidence as residents in the exclusive village of Riddings are questioned in an attempt to get to the bottom of the murders.

We learn of the tensions within the small, isolated community perched at the foot of one of the stunning beauty spots that gives the book its name – the Devil’s Edge. As ever, the characters are wonderfully complex and those of us who are fans of Booth’s work also get reacquainted with Fry’s edgy aggression and Murfin’s cynicism that can only be assuaged by another sausage roll…

Meanwhile the stark Peak District landscape pervades the novel, providing an atmospheric backdrop to the unfolding drama which eventually leads to the dramatic climax during a thunderstorm. I’m not surprised to hear that Cooper and Fry’s exploits are in the process of being televised – the mystery for me has been that no one has thought to do so, sooner.

Any niggles? While I do appreciate the wonderful setting – the Peak District happens to be one of my favourite places – I do think Booth needs to take care that he doesn’t overplay it. For the first time when reading a Booth novel, I did find myself skimming the descriptions of the scenery during the second half of the book.

Overall though, it’s a relatively picky point – and in a year that hasn’t, so far, been the best, getting my annual fix of Booth’s moody whodunit while the rain batters at the windows, certainly has me feeling more like facing the gale-force winds to try and weed the sulking vegetables…
9/10

Review of Scared to Live by Stephen Booth

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If your taste in whodunits runs to a beautifully crafted plot, a cast of complex characters depicted with thoughtfulness and realism, set within the Derbyshire countryside – then Stephen Booth’s books are a must. He was one of the visiting speakers on the West Sussex Writers’ Club Day for Writers a few years ago and his session on character development and motivation was excellent. He also came scaredtoliveacross as a thoroughly nice, unpretentious chap. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a crime journalist who has lived in or near the area his writes about for most of his life – and it shows. The Peak District is every bit as crucial to the atmosphere of Booth’s plots as Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh, or Colin Dexter’s Oxford.

It was an ordinary house fire with tragic consequences: a wife and two children dead. But then for DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper the ordinary always means trouble.  Trouble like a bereaved family living in fear. Trouble like the shocking assassination of an elderly woman living alone in a quiet Peak District village. What could be the motive for inflicting such violence on harmless victims?

To find the answer, Fry and Cooper must direct their search far beyond Derbyshire to the other side of Europe, in a land where the customs are even more unfathomable than the language. With a little help from Europol, they discover some of the reasons why people can be scared to live – and the connection at the heart of the enquiry that proves to be the most surprising revelation of all.

Scared to Live is the seventh book in this superb series, which follows the careers of DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper. And they are fully stretched when in the same week an arsonist kills a woman and her two children in a house fire, swiftly followed by a shooting of an elderly, reclusive woman. Fry, recently promoted over Cooper, is anxious to prove herself and move on from this comparative backwater, while Ben Cooper, born and bred in the area, cannot imagine living anywhere else. To get the full effect of the delicately nuanced relationship between these two, I recommend that you go back and read the series from the beginning, starting with The Dead Place.

If you are expecting the book version of CSI – complete with car chases and graphic gore – then this isn’t the book for you. But as Fry and Cooper trudge through the investigation, the often low-key exchanges and steady accumulation of evidence nevertheless makes compelling reading. And when the occasional burst of violence explodes across the page, as readers, we feel the shock along with the victims. In these days where dead bodies litter our TV screens on a nightly basis, it’s a neat trick to pull off.

I also enjoy Booth’s gift of capturing a character by a gesture or a few words and his wonderful descriptions of the Peak District’s stark beauty – which is often used as a metaphorical counterpoint to the plotline. There is a compelling scene at a local tourist spot, where one of the chief suspects is finally tracked down by Ben Cooper. But for me, what makes Booth stand out, is his interest in the motivations of his criminals. Throughout the book, we have shafts of insight about the all the main protagonists – and by the end of the story, not only do we know whodunit, but why. And in this book, the irony of the denouement is every bit as bleakly haunting as anything you’ll encounter in a literary masterpiece.

I’m delighted to note that his latest book The Devil’s Edge is due out this April. Once I’ve bought it, I’ll hide my mobile phone, take the day off work and settle down to read. Go on – try him. I’ll be surprised if you can stop at just one…

9/10