The newest novel in the Ben Cooper series opens in the tiny, isolated Peak District hamlet of Shawhead, where, one is told, there is only one way in and one way out. When a lorry delivering animal feed is found jammed into a narrow lane blocking the only ingress/egress, with no driver inside [although there are a lot of bloodstains, indicating something seriously amiss], the case is assigned to newly promoted DI Ben Cooper, of the Derbyshire E Division CID.
Ben, in his 30’s and still recovering from the death of his fiancée, Liz Petty, a civilian Scenes of Crime officer, in an earlier series book. In addition, Ben must adjust to the new DS assigned to him, and is adjusting to no longer having DS Diane Fry with whom to discuss his cases, Diane (who has a reputation for toughness and a lack of emotion”) having been transferred to the Major Crime Unit of East Midlands Special Operations Unit, although he manages to get together with her for brief personal/professional visits. Other familiar members of Ben’s staff are present, including DCs Luke Irvin, Carol Villiers and Becky Hurst, although Gavin Murfin is, as the book opens, about to celebrate his retirement. His presence will be missed, by his colleagues as well as the reader, despite him being “an idle, sexist, politically incorrect anachronism who should have been kicked out years ago.”
The novel starts off slowly, less action-filled than the reader might want or expect, although the descriptions of Edendale and Ben’s beloved Peak District, as well as the more rural countryside is, as usual, wonderfully descriptive and evocative. The detailed descriptions, as well as the cover, certainly enable the reader, even those from “across the pond,” such as myself, to visualize the scene. Ben finds himself thinking “This was what he’d been missing, the sense of the wide, open spaces of the Peak District, the acres and acres of wild, majestic country that he’d always loved.”
The case proves especially difficult, primarily because of the insular nature of the inhabitants of the area, as Cooper finds: “The word ‘community’ seemed alien to the residents here. They seemed to live in a state of mutual unhelpfulness and suspicion.” Things only get more complicated when another body is found later that same day, hanging from a tree less than three miles away, apparently a suicide. It’s difficult to believe it’s a coincidence, especially when it is discovered that both men were connected to a fatal accident that had occurred on a major nearby highway 8 years ago. The action picks up, as does the suspense, as the book nears its end. As always with a Stephen Booth novel, it was very enjoyable, and is recommended....Continua