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Friday 27 October 2023

‘Black Dog’ by Stephen Booth

Published by Harper Collins,
April 2000.
ISBN: 978-0-00232693-0

Laura Vernon, fifteen years old and missing from home since Saturday night.

In the heat of the summer in the Peak District, the search for Laura is underway. Ben Cooper along with every other man in the line is equipped with a wooden pole to sift through the long grass and push aside the dense swathes of bracken and bramble.

Laura’s parents Charlotte and Graham, appear at first distraught at the absence of their daughter but gradually questions arise as to Laura’s home life, the family situation, and the secrets they hold.

When Harry Dickenson out walking with his dog finds a trainer, why does he seem so determined to obstruct the police?

The new DS Diane Fry is fresh from Birmingham, determined to be noticed, ambitious and looking for fast promotion. Paired off with Cooper, who has known the villagers all his life, Diane finds herself in an alien world. It seems that everywhere she goes, she is with ‘Sergeant Coppers, lad’. Diane Fry and Ben Cooper both have emotional baggage. Both are suspicious of other people suspecting weakness and have each built a wall around themselves, which has resulted in them both being locked up in their own world of pain.

This book is rich in emotion and complex relationships on several different levels. In fact, the mystery can only be solved when the complexity of relationships is unravelled, much of which lies in the past.  Even when the mystery was solved it was clear that there was a great deal yet to be revealed in the relationships of the main characters. I look forward to the next book, as I want to read more about them and how they each deal with complex history they both have.

The sense of place in this book is strong, as is the depth of feeling of small rural communities. For a debut novel this is a wonderful read. Highly Recommended.
Reviewer:  Lizzie Hayes

Stephen Booth was born in 1952 in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the coast at Blackpool, where he began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine and wrote his first 'novel' at the age of 13. He was a newspaper and magazine journalist for over 25 years. Stephen gave up journalism in 2001 to write crime novels full time. He and his wife Lesley live in a former Georgian dower house near Retford, Nottinghamshire, in Robin Hood and Pilgrim Fathers country.

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