13 August 2012

Back to the Peak District

I picked up another of Stephen Booth's book at the Northfield Library. I'm glad I did.

The Dead Place is set, like Booth's other mysteries, in northern England's Peak District. Detective Constable Ben Cooper and Detective Sergeant Diane Fry are, once again, primary characters. The highland moors and the frenemies status of the cops are important features in the plots and the progression of the stories.

Part of the Dark Peak District
Like the Navajo Nation in Tony Hillerman's masterful books, the northern, Dark Peak District is an overwhelming presence in Booth's stories. There are many isolated places and people, but there are many people around. That seems to me a necessity for a long series of books. Similarly, the people who live in the rural Peak District are "outsiders," like the Navajo. DC Cooper is a native and understands a lot about the locals and their culture, much like Navajo cops Leaphorn and Chee did on the rez.

I'll press the comparison a bit farther. Both Booth and Hillerman created interesting characters, plotted stories that held my interest, and told those stories well. Hillerman's stories were usually less complex than Booth's, and I liked them for that. Booth seems to revel in complicating stories and alternating between telling threads of them. I do like the way that Booth's telling brings all the disparate people and events together, but getting there is a bit frustrating at times.

(All this about how Booth's writing reminds me of Hillerman is also reminding me of how much I miss those novels about the people of the Navajo Nation. I might have to do some re-reading.)

Ah, but The Dead Place. DC Cooper and DS Fry begin by searching for a crime after a body is discovered in the moors. But, the person discovered died of natural causes and was supposedly cremated by a local funeral director. Then there are anonymous letters and phone calls hinting at other bodies and predicting murders. There are Booth's usual diversions and the development of the working relationship between the two main cops. The book kept me reading throughout, even when we hosted a couple of wonderful toddlers and their mother from California for a week. Maybe it was the distraction of the little ones, maybe it was the hangover from the awfulness of the previous book, or any number of other things, but I didn't think The Dead Place was as good as the earlier books by Booth that I'd read. But, it was enjoyable. I will look for another when I return to the library.

Have you read The Dead Place or another of Booth's mysteries? What did you think?

Write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted.

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