Book Review of Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1)

Black Dog (Cooper and Fry, Bk 1)
kuligowskiandrewt avatar reviewed on + 569 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.