Another excellent book from British writer Stephen Booth. The bleak but beautiful countryside of the Peak District attracts very different women. One is attacked and horribly disfigured. One is killed and her body strangely arranged. One is struggling to protect her livelihood and family on a failing farm. But who is the real target, and why? The author expertly portrays the hardship of life in the area and the tensions between visitors and local families.
Good british murder mystery. The nine virgins are a rock formation where the murders take place. Hard to put down towards the end.
First Line: On the day the first woman died, Mark Roper had radio trouble.
In a remote area of the Peaks District in England, a prehistoric ring of stones called the Nine Virgins witnesses the brutal murder of a young cyclist. When Detective Constable Ben Cooper and Detective Sergeant Diane Fry learn that another woman was attacked by an assailant with a knife less than half a mile from the Nine Virgins, they feel they've found the start of a pattern that needs to be stopped immediately.
After enjoying the first book in the series, Black Dog, I expected to settle down to another good read, and Dancing With the Virgins did start well. Author Stephen Booth is a master of the atmospheric setting of the Peaks District-- making it appear both beautiful and menacing-- and his two main characters are finely drawn. However, I had several major problems with this book.
Those very same main characters that I'm getting to know so well are rubbing my fur the wrong way. Diane Fry is the Queen of Not-Letting-Anyone-Get-Close. She realizes this but doesn't know what to do about it... or if she even wants to do anything about it. She's so prickly that, no matter what anyone does, they put their foot in it. I may understand some of her motivations, but after a while prickly gets old, and I begin to wish that she could remain civil to everyone for one entire hour.
Ben Cooper, on the other hand, is the opposite of Diane Fry. Where Diane Fry sees black or white, everything is in shades of grey to Ben Cooper. He has a difficult time saying no to anyone and seems to want to be all things to all people. As a result, he seems frozen in place at times.
The pacing of the book was glacial and came very close to being a Did Not Finish for me. The first substantive clue for the main murder occurred on page 380 of a 528-page book. The culprits for this were the many subplots that sucked all the life out of the investigation into the murder of the cyclist. Besides the murder, there were plot threads involving child pornography, illegal dog fighting, a corrupt cop, two young homeless men camped out in a broken-down van, domestic violence, a young park ranger learning the ropes... and others. If there'd been fewer subplots, I think things would've moved a bit faster and the book would've held my interest.
As it stands, Dancing With the Virgins just didn't work for me. I do have the third book in the series here, and I will read it. But it will be a while before I pick it up.
The second in the series set in the Derbyshire Peak District, Dancing with the Virgins is a tense psychological follow-up to Stephen Booth's acclaimed debut Black Dog. 'The body of the woman sprawled obscenely among the stones... She looked like a dead woman, dancing.' The ring of cairns known as the Nine Virgins has stood on the windswept moors of Derbyshire for centuries. Now, as winter closes in, a tenth figure is added - a body - and a modern tragedy is added to the dark legend that surrounds the stones. There's no shortage of suspects, each with their own guilty secret, but what DS Fry and DC Cooper lack is any kind of motive. As they search separately for answers, it seems the reasons for the strange behavior of the moor's inhabitants may lie somewhere in the past, in a terrible crime yet to be discovered...
I love Stephen Booth's writing. His great sense of place (Derbyshire's Peak District) and vivid descriptions make me feel like I am right there as I read his books. The complex plotting unfolds with lots of twists and turns that makes the book hard to put down. His strong character development, even for the minor characters, is what keeps me reading his books. The tension between Cooper and Fry is really heating up and I can't wait to see if a relationship is in store for them. I am now looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series very shortly. I would highly recommend this series to those who love excellent writing and vivid descriptions with their murder mysteries.
Death on the moors. New author on the English mystery scene.