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Sunday, 23 June 2013

‘Already Dead’ by Stephen Booth

Published by Sphere, 
20th June, 2013.
ISBN: 9787-0-7515-5171-6

Detective Sergeant Diane Fry is back in Derbyshire E Division headquarters, and she is not happy about it.  Ben Cooper is on extended sick leave following the burns he received when he tried to save his fiancé Liz, who was working as a scene of crimes officer during an arson attack. (See Dead and Buried).

The body of a man has been found in shallow water – did he drown?  Attending the post-mortem Diane finds the pathologist Mrs van Doon less than helpful or disinclined to assist Diane.  With little to go on Diane and her team investigates the solitary life of Glenn Turner, an insurance investigator with few friends. Could his death be revenge for someone who didn’t receive the insurance payment they expected.

This is the thirteenth book in the series and I well remember the excitement I felt when I read the first, Black Dog. Although,  I have enjoyed all the books in the series, this is the one that engendered in me the same excitement.  Why?  Well the mystery surrounding the death of Glenn Turner is as convoluted, complex and engrossing as the previous mysteries have been.  But in this one the characters who have developed over the last twelve books are now sorely tested.  Ben Cooper is pushed to the limit and behaves in a way that seems out of character. But how do any of us know how we will behave in abnormal situations.  I liked Cooper more in this book than in any of the earlier ones.  And began to like Diane, who I confess has always annoyed me, as I dislike her lack of empathy and never understand why she doesn’t learn that a kind word will achieve more than a snappy attitude.  This time, I felt some sympathy as she is struggling and doesn’t know why.

The mystery kept me guessing, and was satisfyingly tied up, but the real surprising twist comes at the end. I will be first in line for the next book.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in the series are:  Black Dog, Dancing With Virgins, Blood on the Tongue, Blind to the Bones, One Last Breath, The Dead Place, Scared to Live, Dying to Sin, The Kill Call, Lost River, The devil’s Edge, Dead and Buried.

Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine, and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. After graduating from City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now  Birmingham University), Stephen moved to Manchester to train as a teacher, but escaped from the profession after a terrifying spell as a trainee teacher in a big city comprehensive school.  Starting work on his first newspaper in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1974, Stephen was a specialist rugby union reporter, as well as working night shifts as a sub-editor on the Daily Express and The Guardian. This was followed by periods with local newspapers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He was at various times Production Editor of the Farming Guardian magazine, Regional Secretary of the British Guild of Editors, and one of the UK's first qualified assessors for the NVQ in Production Journalism.  Freelance work began with rugby reports for national newspapers and local radio stations. Stephen has also had articles and photographs published in a wide range of specialist magazines, from Scottish Memories to Countrylovers Magazine, from Cat World to Canal and Riverboat, and one short story broadcast on BBC radio. In 1999, his writing career changed direction when, in rapid succession, he was shortlisted for the Dundee Bool Prize and the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger competition for new writers, then won the £5,000 Lichfield Prize for his unpublished novel The Only Dead Thing, and signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins for a series of crime novels.  In 2000, Stephen's first published novel, Black Dog, marked the arrival in print of his best known creations - two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry. Black Dog was the named by the London Evening Standard as one of the six best crime novels of the year - the only book on their list written by a British author. In the USA, it won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. The second Cooper & Fry novel, Dancing with the Virgins, was shortlisted for the UK's top crime writing award, the Gold Dagger, and went on to win Stephen a Barry Award for the second year running.  In 2003, Detective Constable Ben Cooper was a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British author, thanks to his exploits in the third book of the series, Blood on the Tongue. The publication of Blind to the Bones that year resulted in Stephen winning the Crime Writers' Association's 'Dagger in the Library' Award, presented to the author whose books have given readers most pleasure. The same book was nominated for the Theakston's UK Crime Novel of the Year award in 2005. Subsequent titles have been One Last Breath, The Dead Place (both finalists for the UK Crime Novel of the Year in 2006 and 2007), Scared to Live, Dying to Sin, The Kill Call, Lost River and The Devil's Edge. The 12th Cooper & Fry novel, Dead and Buried, will be published in the UK in June 2012. A special Ben Cooper story, Claws, was released in 2007 to launch the new 'Crime Express' imprint, and was re-issued in April 2011. All the books are set in England's beautiful and atmospheric Peak District. At the end of 2006, the Peak District National Park Authority featured locations from the Cooper & Fry series in their , new  Peak Experience visitors’ guides recognising the interest in the area inspired by the books.

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