06 July 2012

Back to the moors

I was comfortable picking up another book by Stephen Booth at the Northfield Public Library. I checked it out at the same time I checked out Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird. I've had mixed experiences with Atkinson's books and Booth was, I thought, a sure thing.

Peak District National Park
I was right. Set in the highland moors of England's Peak District, like Booth's earlier books, the story is contained and limited. The Peak District National Park is an area of pasture land, farming, old mines, and mountains. It's lightly populated and carved into many valleys. Booth made me think of Appalachia when he described the place and the isolated people who live in those valleys. But the area is near major cities of Manchester and Sheffield and millions of visitors show up in good weather. The stories in Blind to the Bones are set in late fall/early winter, so there are few tourists to muck up the stories.

And there are stories. That's one of the things I like about Booth's books. There's a story about a university student, missing for two years, and her parents who stubbornly maintain that their daughter is merely missing and likely to walk in their door at any moment. Then there's the very recent murder of a local man who had been one of the missing girl's housemates. Oh, and there is the rash of burglaries at remote farms and ramshackle villages. And I can't neglect to mention the cult-like extended family, whose repertoire of ways to get along with outsiders is very limited.

The glue that ties all these things and Booth's other books together is the cast of the local constabulary. The main people are Detective Sergeant Diane Fry and Detective Ben Cooper. As usual they are engaged in an enigmatic power struggle while working "together." There's enough individual character development to keep me interested, but not so much as to engage my soap-opera early warning alarms.  

A Peak District mountain top
 Booth does a good job of telling the stories, describing the scenery, and maintaining the characters to keep me reading. His descriptions of the hills, mountains, moors, and pastures led me, while reading the book, to check out the area with Google Earth. What I saw online is what Booth describes. I even found the Street View photo of the entrance of an abandoned railway tunnel Booth refers to. Gradually (perhaps too gradually this time) he weaves the various stories together. The resolutions are a bit too neat and tidy by my lights, but there will be other mysteries to solve for these characters in my future.

I liked reading Blind to the Bones. I could get attached to this series of books and these characters in the way I got attached to Tony Hillerman's mysteries. I've only read four so far. According to his web site, there are twice that many waiting for me.

 Have you read Blind to the Bones or another of Stephen Booth's other books? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

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