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Sunday 4 October 2015

‘The Murder Road’ By Stephen Booth

Published (UK0 by Sphere,
15 July  2015,
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5994-1(HB)
Published (CA) by Sphere,
8 September 2015.
ISBN 978-0-7515-5995-8 (PB)
Published (US) by Witness Impulse,
8 September, 2015
ASIN:* B00XHRVXKE (Kindle)

The newest novel in the Ben Cooper series opens in the tiny, isolated Peak District hamlet of Shawhead, where, one is told, there is only one way in and one way out.  When a lorry delivering animal feed is found jammed into a narrow lane blocking the only ingress/egress, with no driver inside [although there are a lot of bloodstains, indicating something seriously amiss], the case is assigned to newly promoted DI Ben Cooper, of the Derbyshire E Division CID.

Ben, in his 30’s and still recovering from the death of his fiancée, Liz Petty, a civilian Scenes of Crime officer, in an earlier series book.  In addition, Ben must adjust to the new DS assigned to him, and is adjusting to no longer having DS Diane Fry with whom to discuss his cases, Diane (who has a reputation for toughness and a lack of emotion”) having been transferred to the Major Crime Unit of East Midlands Special Operations
Unit, although he manages to get together with her for brief personal/professional visits.  Other familiar members of Ben’s staff are present, including DCs Luke Irvin, Carol Villiers and Becky Hurst, although
Gavin Murfin is, as the book opens, about to celebrate his retirement.  His presence will be missed, by his colleagues as well as the reader, despite him being “an idle, sexist, politically incorrect anachronism who should have been kicked out years ago.”

The novel starts off slowly, less action-filled than the reader might want or expect, although the descriptions of Edendale and Ben’s beloved Peak District, as well as the more rural countryside is, as usual, wonderfully
descriptive and evocative.  The detailed descriptions, as well as the cover, certainly enable the reader, even those from “across the pond,” such as myself, to visualize the scene.  Ben finds himself thinking “This was
what he’d been missing, the sense of the wide, open spaces of the Peak District, the acres and acres of wild, majestic country that he’d always loved.”

The case proves especially difficult, primarily because of the insular nature of the inhabitants of the area, as Cooper finds:  “The word ‘community’ seemed alien to the residents here.  They seemed to live in a state of mutual unhelpfulness and suspicion.”  Things only get more complicated when another body is found later that same day, hanging from a tree less than three miles away, apparently a suicide.  It’s difficult to believe it’s a coincidence, especially when it is discovered that both men were connected to a fatal accident that had occurred on a major nearby highway 8 years ago.  The action picks up, as does the suspense, as the book nears its end.  As always with a Stephen Booth novel, it was very enjoyable, and is recommended.
Reviewer: by 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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