02 April 2012

Saturday dilemma

I had a book I thought I'd read last weekend. It turned out to be engaging enough that I finished it late Saturday afternoon (not late Sunday). The library was closed. I didn't have any other books on my bed side pile. No! Was I to be banished to television land? Yikes! Did I have to talk to the family gathered here. Luckily, we went out to dinner -- great Japanese scallops for me and equally good food for everyone else. And we talked to one another. We even continued talking to each other after dinner. At bedtime I resorted to a collection of sermons by John Cummins, one the two preachers who has made me think and feel.

The book that encouraged conversation by being good enough that I finished it before I expected to? Black Dog by Stephen Booth. I don't know how Stephen Booth's name appeared on my "to read" list, but there it was when I was last at the library. I looked at several books and chose Booth's first, Black Dog.

The title is a red herring. There's a black dog in one of the stories, but it's a bit of distraction. Booth tells stories well, and there are several in this book. And, in a self-proclaimed "crime novel," it's the characters, not the stories that stand out.

The main character is a local boy doing well, hoping like his father to become a police sergeant in the Peak District of northern England. However, he's haunted by his father's sainted memory in the community, in part because his father died bravely in the line of duty. The supporting cast includes an ambitious young detective constable who has been newly assigned to the district and is an unexpected competitor for the sergeant's position. There's the Dickinson family, headed by Harry, who keeps acting guilty because he has secrets to keep. His granddaughter seems to be a potential love interest for the main character, but she seems secretive too. The local "aristocrat" might be the recipient of sympathy and concern because his daughter has been killed, but he's a nasty piece of work who, as a self-made man, never understood noblesse oblige. There are others, in the village and in the cop shop, who appear and leave an impression. But the characters make the story work.

I know I've said I like story telling, but a decently told story with interesting and engaging characters makes a book a pleasure to read. And I enjoyed reading this one. Somehow Booth never lets the description of characters get noticeably in the way of telling the stories, and the characters never obscure what's going on in the stories. As I said, I spent more time reading on Saturday afternoon than I intended and finished the book after the library closed.

It was the first time I sort of wished I had an e-book reader so I could download another book.

So did you recommend Stephen Booth to me? If so, many thanks. After all that character development, I expect to read about these people in more "crime novels."

Have you read Black Dog or another of Stephen Booth's books? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world about your reaction.

The author's web page
A summary of 478 ratings at Good Reads
Maddy Van Hertbruggen's review at Reviewing the Evidence
Luke Croll's thumbnail review at Murder Express

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