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Friday, 6 March 2015

‘The Corpse Bridge’ by Stephen Booth

Published (USA) by Witness Impulse,
February 10, 2015. (PB)
(USA & CA) 16 December 2014
( e-book). ISBN 978-0-0623-8242-9
(UK) by Sphere,
19 June 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5273-0 (HB)

The newest novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series opens on Halloween in Edendale, in the Peak District of England.  DS Ben Cooper, of the Derbyshire E Division CID, in his 30’s, is going through a particularly bad time in his life, after his fiancée, Li z Petty, a civilian Scenes of Crime officer, had been killed when the premises they were investigating burned to the ground, costing Liz her life, and “snatched [Ben’s] entire future away.”  On this night, he is called to the scene where a woman’s corpse has been found, ironically at a site colloquially known as The Corpse Bridge, crossing over the River Dove.  Over many generations several “coffin roads” converged at that bridge before ending at their graveyards.  Making the case more complex is the presence at the scene of an effigy, a noose, and a witch ball filled with curses.

The usual group of cops readers have grown to know and love are present: DCs Luke Irvine, Becky Hurst, Carol Villiers and Gavin Murfin (after 30 years now nearing the end of his time before retirement).  Ben finds himself reunited with DS Diane Fry, who had transferred to the Major Crime Unit of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, and is about to move into an apartment on the outskirts of Nottingham.  She had been back at Derbyshire’s E Division to cover for Ben when he was out on sick leave after Liz’ death, and is now called back there again to work the present case with Divisional CID.  Her relationship with Ben reverts to its normal enmity-filled competitiveness, especially at a time when Ben is considering applying for a coming vacancy at inspector level or, in the alternative, getting out completely.

The writing is less action-filled than it is wonderfully descriptive, both of local atmosphere and geography, and including as it does a lot of fascinating historical lore.  The author conjures up all the details of the countryside and its geography so that even one from “across the pond” can clearly picture them.  He describes the hill country as “prehistoric anomalies . . . [which] belonged to a distant past.  They shouldn’t exist here, in the twenty-first century.  These strange hills were a fragment of some parallel universe, dropped into Derbyshire by a momentary connection between their two worlds.  He was standing in reality, but looking at legend . . . one of those odd places the Peak District was full of . . . In this area you never knew what sort of place you were arriving in or what might lie behind its façade.”

As you can see, the writing is beautiful, and the novel is recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit
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.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

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