Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Black Dog" by Stephen Booth

(cover image from Cozy Mysteries)

Black Dog (2000) by Stephen Booth was a spur of the moment purchase, when I saw that the Kindle version was only 99¢ at Of course, it's going to cost me a lot more than that, now that I have to buy the rest of the books in the series. :)

In this first "Cooper & Fry mystery," we're introduced to two young detective constables in England's Peak District, a rural area of hills and moors, much of it a national park, though with small towns, too. Both turn out to have a 'black dog' on their back.

Ben Cooper is the up-and-coming star of the Edendale police force, a local boy ridden by the death of his father, who'd also been a police officer, and by the increasing schizophrenia of his mother. Diane Fry is a newcomer, also ambitious, trying to overcome a terrible childhood and a recent gang rape.

When the book starts, a 15-year-old girl is missing. Later, after she's found dead, Cooper and Fry are thrown together during an intense murder investigation. Their differences end up causing friction that's magnified by their personal problems and their ambition.

Don't get me wrong, both are very likeable. Both are very capable, but also very decent people. And most of the other people in this book are pretty decent, too.

I'm rarely particularly interested in the mystery of a mystery novel. I mean, it's important, but the characters are far more important to me. And this book has great characters - not just the two detectives for whom this is the start of a series, but even the minor characters.

I wasn't grabbed by the story immediately. I thought it started a bit slow - interesting, but only mildly so. By halfway through the book, though, I couldn't put it down. And after finishing, I can't wait to see what happens next to these two young detectives.

As I say, all of the characters were interesting, and almost all were sympathetic - at least, in part. I was hugely impressed by that part of the book. It took awhile, because most weren't immediately appealing, but as time goes on, you learn more about even very minor characters.

This is a murder mystery, and it's not funny. It's not just Cooper and Fry who are ridden by a 'black dog,' either. But it's not depressing. I didn't find it so, at least. And if you like character-driven mysteries, as I do, I'd certainly recommend this one.

Note: My other book reviews, such as they are, are here.


Barbara Kidder said...

I love this series, and Black Dog is one of the best. One of my favorite characters in all the books is the Peak District itself. Booth masterfully portrays it's brooding and wildness, and it's beauty. i believe you will enjoy the entire series. I am anxiously awaiting the ebook release of the latest, Already Dead, in the US. might be another year.... but do read them in order for sure. Enjoy your blog immensely.

WCG said...

Thanks, Barbara. I've already ordered the next four books in this series, so you can see that I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy the rest of them, too. :)