The blurb on my copy of Stephen Booth's latest thriller, a Ben Cooper / Diane Fry mystery, says, "[a] modern master of rural noir," The Guardian. For once, I readily agree with the blurb on the cover of a book. Set in the Peak District and in Birmingham ("Brum") the book moves back and forth between the case that Cooper feels he should be working on (an accidental or so it's been determined) drowning and Diane Fry's own assault case.
Ben Cooper was off-duty when he noticed the body in the river. He raced into the water and tried to save the little girl, whose body was already blue with cold. All eyewitness accounts said the same thing, that the little girl, Emily Nield, slipped and hit her head on a rock. But Ben Cooper's gut feels differently about the crime -- he knows something else happened and he won't stop until he figures it out.
In the other thread of the novel, Diane Fry's dedicates the same kind of attention to her instinct. When the powers that be in Birmingham, where she was stationed before Derbyshire (doesn't it make you think of Pride and Prejudice? All I kept seeing was the walking tour Lizzie takes with her aunt and uncle the whole time I was reading. Those huge trees. That lovely landscape.), tell her that her assault case (she was raped a few years back one night by more than one assailant) won't be prosecuted, Diane sets out on her own to figure out exactly what happened. And what she uncovers tells her more about herself than she ever expected or wanted to know.
The most interesting aspect of both these characters and their stories is that they take place outside the usual police house. They're not basic cases -- a crime's committed and the detectives (and the complex DS, DC, Acting DS, C, etc.) figure out what happened and make arrests. Both Diane and Ben go off the grid to an extent, look for truths they need to move their lives forward relating to both of these cases, and don't necessarily escape unscathed. Booth's a solid writer, one I'd be happy to read more from, and Lost River kept my interest (even if I figured out a twist or two early on) throughout. The pastoral setting of Ben's crime balanced by the more urban, politicized setting of modern-day Birmingham worked well together to create a nice sense of tension.
WHAT'S UP NEXT: I got caught up in Hilary Mantel's ridiculously addictive Wolf Hall, which I'm about three-quarters of the way through. I want to finish in and a number of other books this week, a few of those I've already started...