THE DEAD PLACE - Stephen Booth

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Publication Details
Book Title: 
The Dead Place
ISBN: 
000717200
Series: 
Ben Cooper
Diane Fry
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Book Synopsis

Soon there will be a killing.  Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma.  I can smell it right now, can't you?  So powerful, so sweet.  So irresistible.  It's the scent of death.
 
The anonymous caller who taunts the Derbyshire Police with talk of an imminent killing could be just another hoaxer.  The macabre descriptions of death and decomposition could be someone's sick fantasy.  But after listening to the voice, so eerily calm and controlled as it invites the police to meet the 'flesh eater', Detective Diane Fry is certain she's dealing with a killer... And it may already be too late to save the next victim.
 
DC Ben Cooper, meanwhile, is looking into Derbyshire's first case of body snatching.  It is an investigation that will take him into the world of those whose lives revolve around the dead and their disposal, from funeral directors to crematorium staff and a professor whose specialty is the study of death.
 
Book Review

I like this series.  I like Diane Fry.  Why do I have to say that?  Well Diane Fry is one of those characters that divides opinions on most of the discussion lists I belong to - you either like her or you don't (much like Elle Pascoe in the Reginald Hill Dalziel and Pascoe novels).  Personally I hope that Diane Fry doesn't lose the mouth and the attitude, given what has been revealed about her in earlier books - she's perfectly entitled to be as grumpy as she damn well pleases.   And that's probably the only reason that you'd want to read Stephen Booth's series in order - there is an ongoing progression of character development that helps you understand both Fry and Cooper a bit.
 
In THE DEAD PLACE Mr Booth has again bought that wonderful feeling of suspense and tension to a story without necessarily resorting to overt violence.  His "villains" are oftentimes ordinary people who get themselves into bad positions, or are forced to extremes by circumstances.  Frequently there are a lot of characters who are just a bit odd - dare we say "eccentric", sometimes they are hiding things, oftentimes they are just that - a bit odd.  THE DEAD PLACE has a lot of possibilities for the head "villain", and to my mind, the interesting sort of resolution - where the villain is a victim in their own right.  
 
Body snatching is a complicated crime to look into and Ben Cooper's main problem is initially in identifying whose skeleton is found lying pretty well unconcealed in a remote - but not untraipsed part of the forest.  Whether or not this body is the "body" that the taunter sending messages to the Derbyshire Police via telephone is referring to, isn't immediately obvious but it doesn't seem so.  Of course where or what The Dead Place that he refers to also isn't immediately clear, nor is why he used a funeral for cover for his initial call.  Investigating a crime that may or may not have occurred, or be about to occur makes Diane's investigation just a bit complicated as well.
 
Beautifully complex, wonderfully atmospheric, nicely creepy but with a deftness of touch that makes it sinister without being cliched, THE DEAD PLACE is a book I've been hoarding for quite a while.  I live in hope that Mr Booth will feel inclined to continue writing for a long time to come.
 

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