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Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1)
Black Dog - Cooper and Fry, Bk 1
Author: Stephen Booth
As helicopters search Northern England's Peak District for fifteen year-old Laura Vernon, Detective Constable Ben Cooper quietly dreads the worst. And when her body is found in the woods, Cooper's investigation begins with a short list of markedly uncooperative suspects: retired miner Harry Dickinson, whose black Labrador discovered Laur...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780671786045
ISBN-10: 0671786040
Publication Date: 11/1/2001
Pages: 480
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

4 stars, based on 39 ratings
Publisher: Pocket
Book Type: Paperback
Members Wishing: 1
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

Spuddie avatar reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 412 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
An excellent first novel, set in the Peak District of the UK. Features Ben Cooper and Diane Fry, Detective Constables in the fictional town of Edendale trying to cope with a missing teenage girl and then with her murder as well as a host of personal issues. Well done--I've read further in the series and they only get better!
ilovedale3 avatar reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 524 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A young girl is missing in Northern England. Her body is soon discovered by an old man and his black Labrador. The police begin investigating the crime, but can't seem to get past the uncooperative suspects, including the girl's own family. This book is a great mystery read! It is suspenseful with several unsuspected twists and turns in the plot that will keep you hooked until the end.
cathyskye avatar reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 1918 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
First Line: The sudden glare of colors beat painfully on the young woman's eyes as she burst from the back door of the cottage and hurled herself into the brightness.

Welcome to Edendale, a village in the Peak District of England. Edendale is home to Constable Ben Cooper, an officer with a bright future who nevertheless worries that he will never be able to fill the shoes of his father, a police sergeant who died in the line of duty in Ben's own precinct. Ben relies a great deal on intuition and leaps of logic in his work.

New to the Edendale Police is Diane Fry, a very ambitious young woman on the fast track to promotion. She relies on good, solid investigative work that follows the rules. She's aloof, prickly and more than a little tired of the fact that the people living there tell her nothing while they all treat Ben Cooper like a beloved son.

Not exactly the most promising start to any sort of partnership, is it?

Ben and Diane find themselves thrown together more often than not when 15-year-old Laura Vernon is found murdered. Like Diane, Laura and her parents are outsiders, outsiders that the villagers have never been very friendly toward. Booth has about the best description of how people think in an insular community, and it reminds me of why I no longer live in one:

"Yes, you only really knew people when you knew everything about them. You needed to know it all-- from the exact moment they had been conceived in the long grass behind the village hall to the first word they had spoken, and the contents of their fifth-form school reports. You needed to know what size shoes they wore, how much money they owed the credit card company, when their bout of chicken pox had been, and which foot had the ingrowing toenail. You had to know who their first sexual encounter had been with, what brand of condom they had used, and whether the experience had been satisfactory. Now that was knowing somebody."

In a village that thinks that way, Diane Fry has her work cut out for her. Actually the entire police force has its work cut out for it because Harry Dickinson, the old man who found Laura's body, is a close-mouthed, cantankerous soul who knows more than he's telling. What is it that Harry knows? Why do none of the villagers like the Vernons? Why is Laura's father determined to pin his daughter's murder on the gardener he's just fired?

I found Booth's depiction of the Peak District very atmospheric...almost chilling. The plot was satisfyingly convoluted and had a very deliberate pace. In fact the pace of the story reminded me a great deal of Harry Dickinson, the old man with a lot to say but who wasn't going to say it until he was damned good and ready. While the plot marched on, I got to know Ben and Diane a bit better. Ben is the intuitive one, the one who has heavy family responsibilities, and he's also prone to bouts with the "black dog"-- slang for depression. Diane is the anti-social one. The one who knows how to dress, how to behave and what to say in order to be promoted, but one who wants to keep everyone at arm's length. Although I found all the prickliness tiresome at first, once Booth began telling us their back stories, I was willing to set that impatience aside and enjoy the story more.

Enjoy it I did. The setting, the plot, the deliberate pacing, and the characters all combined to make me not pay close attention to the clues Booth planted all along the way. When the murderer's identity was revealed, my reaction wasn't one of shock but one of "Well of course that's who it was!" Not only that, but by book's end I fully came to appreciate the title of the book. In Black Dog, Stephen Booth has laid the foundation for an excellent mystery series. I look forward to reading more.
reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A terrific mystery, much better written than most. Very exciting and surprising.
reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of the best mystery / crime books I've read this year!
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kuligowskiandrewt avatar reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 567 more book reviews
Whenever someone asks, I tell them that my favorite genre is murder mystery, but that I don't really have a favorite sub-genre. I confess that's not entirely true. I have a soft spot for the sub-sub-sub genre of character studies with a murder mystery wrapped around it, where Whodunnit and Howdunnit takes a back seat to how does this affect the survivors, the town, and the investigators. Ironically, most of my favorites in this area (besides Sweden's Camilla Lackberg) come from Great Britain and Ireland. Stuart MacBride. Tana French. Ian Rankin. AND after reading Black Dog, I'm going to add Stephen Booth to that list.

Detective Constable Ben Cooper is our protagonist, trying to balance a challenging case involving a missing soon found dead (which shouldn't qualify as a spoiler; it's on the back cover) and career with ongoing family issues and a quest for a personal life. Newcomer DC Diane Fry may help on one or more of those fronts, or she may be be biggest hindrance he has encountered to date. Or perhaps that title is more aptly earned by prime witness Harry Dickinson, whose name seems to keep popping up in other aspects of the investigation.

This book drew me in, and made me care about its characters some in a positive way, others negative. I never felt that the people in the book were there to move the mystery along. On the other hand, I never felt like the mystery was there to simply give the characters a reason for being, either.

Alright, they say that confession is good for the soul I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be. 446 pages of content translated into 13 CDs on audiobook. I think a scene or two could have hit the cutting room floor without sacrificing plot, tone, or understanding of our characters. Of course, it's also possible that this already occurred, and the earlier draft was even longer.

I couldn't sit here and suggest a scene that SHOULD be cut, either. One of the issues of character studies in a procedural is that they DO require a lot of content in order to discover and understand the characters. Trim here, trim there, and we end up with a hole in our understanding, which makes the entire work less than it could/should be.

4 ½ stars, but I'll round up to 5 - nice first effort, looking forward to catching up with the rest of the books in this series.
reviewed Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1) on + 3 more book reviews
This was the first time I had read a book by Stephen Booth. I truly loved the many eccentric, shady, and pitiful characters he included. He wove their lives into an intriguing and surprising story. It was so refreshing to read about people who were not perfect in every way, and therefore not artificial, including the detectives who solve the mystery. I grew quite fond of Detective Ben Cooper and wanted to know more about his family.