THE DEVIL'S EDGE - Stephen Booth
Many fans of Stephen Booth's Fry and Cooper series seem to fall into the pro or anti DS Diane Fry camp pretty firmly. Those in the anti camp may take heart from the fact that she's slightly less present in this book, not making an appearance until later in proceedings. There's also a shift in the power imbalance as Cooper has finally been promoted to the same rank of Detective Sergeant, managing his own team as part of a bigger investigation into a series of home invasions which seem to have culminated in a brutal local murder.
It's been a while since I caught back up with this excellent series, and I'm rather pleased to be back. As usual, THE DEVIL'S EDGE provides a solid police procedural plot, with the bonus of a fantastic sense of place. The Devil's Edge from the title is a rock-face looming over an enclosed, private, very English feeling village. Enclosed and private partly because of the people that populate it, and partly because of geography. The cliff edges that surround the village provide Booth with a chance to write an atmospheric tale, with some beautiful descriptive passages, the central premise of which relies heavily on that inward looking persona, and a village populated by wealthy people in enclosed properties who value their privacy. Except, of course, for the obligatory village sticky-nose. Just as this village is reticent to open itself up to the outside world of tourists and visitors, they are reluctant to completely open up to the police, despite the violent home invasion and murder that occurs in their midst. That reticence and desire for privacy plays off nicely against the idea that overhanging them all, facilitating a glimpse into their privacy for some, are the cliffs that impose.
Undoubtedly one of the great strengths of all of Booth's novels is that sense of place, and location. On the other hand, with his two main characters, he's set himself the difficult task of writing a long-term prickly relationship. In THE DEVIL'S EDGE that's somewhat relieved by Fry being stationed elsewhere for a large portion of the book, and by creating and building a team of supportive officers around Cooper. When Fry returns, however, and particularly as she has to take a hands on involvement in a case involving Cooper's own brother, there is still a little of the prickle, but there is also a sense of understanding, respect and co-operation. The only major character oddity in the entire mix is Liz - SOCO, girlfriend and finally fiancé of Ben as the book progresses. For some reason she is almost completely absent in that very traumatic Cooper family event, which just didn't make any sense whatsoever. Hopefully there's a plan to resolve that relationship because in this book, it didn't feel real. Then there's this childhood friend, widow, police officer Carol Villiers in the mix. Makes you want to get your hands on the next book asap!
The newspapers call them the Savages: a band of home invaders as merciless as they are stealthy. Usually they don't leave a clue. This time, they've left a body. The first victim is found sprawled on her kitchen floor, blood soaking the terracotta tiles. Before long, another corpse is discovered, dead of fright. As the toll rises, it's up to DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry to track down the killers. But the enemy isn't who they think it is. Beneath the sinister shadow of the mountain ridge called the Devil's Edge, a twisted game is in play ?