Blind to the Bones, Stephen Booth

Officers were explaining patiently to distraught mothers that it was impossible for somebody who had been missing for only twenty-four hours to have been reduced to a skeleton in that time, no matter how badly they’d been eating recently.


After enjoying Blood on the Tongue so much, I wanted to head straight into the next of Stephen Booth’s Cooper and Fry books, but found the early chapters surprisingly hard going.

The previous book’s build up was increasingly rewarding right up to the final, satisfying resolution of its many varied story threads. Starting this one so soon afterwards was like having to immediately prepare for another journey. I think the “hard going” was a result of having to  become familiar with another itinerary and some different travelling companions before the glow of a previous, well-loved trip has subsided.

Blind to the Bones includes the disappearance of a young woman who went missing two years previously; a case with significance to DC Fry whose sister  vanished during her teens.

The young woman’s mobile phone is found not long before her former housemate is found murdered on the Derbyshire moors. Is there a connection between the two?

Again Booth weaves elements of  folk customs landscape and community issues into his stories. In this book the Derbyshire practice of well-dressing is featured. He also introduces Morris dancing, although in a more brutal, industrial age form than the more familiar prancing, waving and rattling version that I had been more familiar with – having seen practitioners of that in the market place of my childhood home town prior to moving to Australia.

Investigations into the girl’s disappearance and her housemate’s murder aren’t made easy by the families involved, one resisting and avoiding the police as much as possible, the other going to the other extreme, always seeking attention.

Family complications also bring challenges to work relationships among the investigating police, putting pressure on already tenuous friendships. How far should a workmate get involved in a colleague’s family difficulties?

The tensions between DC Cooper and DC Fry continue in this book. To date every one step towards resolution is followed by two steps back. Booth has now written seventeen of his Cooper and Fry series. Blind to the Bones is the 4th, still early in the sequence of events, so that tension can be maintained with a degree of justification. However, I’m hoping there will be some kind of change through subsequent books, a sustainable progression, and not a constant continuation of the same or similar attitudes.







Musical Tastes of Fictional Characters (2)

In a previous post about the music enjoyed by fictional characters I mentioned a Waterboys reference in Stephen Booth’s  first book Black Dog. The reference is in fact in his second book, Dancing With the Virgins.


‘That was the river, this is the sea’

Ben Cooper turned up the volume on his stereo and opened the cover of his Waterboys CD. He was amazed to find it dated from 1985. In fact, most of the music he possessed was the stuff he had liked twelve or fifteen years ago as a teenager.



A Blast From My “Crime Fiction” Past

While looking for details of a review I recall writing on my very first version of this blog (not on wordpress), I accidently came across the following, that shows my journey into crime fiction wasn’t quite as recent as I thought.
However the books I wrote about here definitely aren’t examples of the type of crime fiction I’ve recently begun to read.

Reading Jasper Ffforde’s Thursday Next series is like jumping into a blender with an armful of books selected from almost every genre. His stories defy narrow categorisation. They combine elements of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Crime and Humour, seasoned with a few pages from literary criticism and grammar text books. If I have overlooked a genre, it’s probably there anyway, like a familiar spice that you recognise in a meal but can’t quite isolate and identify.

complete article here:


That was written over seven years ago and it’s been a number of years since I’ve read any Jasper Fforde.

It might be time to revisit him, but I have so many other books to get through first.

Musical Tastes of Fictional Characters

One thing I’m enjoying when I read Stephen Booth’s books is the occasional musical reference. It seems like his Detective Constable Ben Cooper (maybe even Booth himself?) shares my musical taste.

I think it was in Booth’s first book Black Dog* that Cooper listened to the Waterboys, and in the book I’m currently reading, Blind to the Bones, Cooper has borrowed another CD from my collection: Green Blade Rising by the Levellers.

Here’s a track from the album.

Ben Cooper poked around for a CD to play on the way back to Edendale in his Toyota. He found a recent Levellers album and was pleased by the title Green Blade Rising.

On the way out of the village, he noticed two men with a tractor and a length of rope near the pool in the river. Another man was standing in the water in PVC waders. He was already pretty well covered in duckweed as he struggled to attach the rope to one of the boards that floated on the surface of the pool.

‘Strange,’ said Cooper to himself. And he tapped his fingers to the Levellers as he drove out of Withens



see correction here

Blood on the Tongue, Stephen Booth

It was one of the worst sounds you could ever hear – the ticking of a clock in an empty house after its owner had died. It was a reminder that the world would carry on just the same after you had gone

blood on the tongue

This is the third book featuring DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry .

The author had this to say about his main characters in an interview not long after the release of the book:

Ben Cooper is the local lad, born and raised in the Peak District. He is from a farming background, but his father was a police sergeant, a local hero, whose mantel Ben has inherited, somewhat reluctantly. Everyone knows him, and he understands the minds of the local people. Diane Fry, on the other hand, is an outsider, who has arrived from a big city force. She is ambitious, not really interested in establishing new friendships, but in advancing her career. I suppose there is some gender role reversal, as Ben is the sensitive, intuitive one who cares about the people he comes across in his job, while Diane is much tougher and hard-edged. The relationship between the two of them surprised me a little as it developed.

In Blood on the Tongue, wartime and present day mysteries are woven together within the northern Derbyshire landscape. The “tongue” in the title is Irontongue Hill, the location of past and present tragedies.

A snowplough crew uncover the body of an unidentified man while they are clearing a mountain pass. What link is there between his murder and the crash of a Lancaster bomber during the second world war and the discovery 50 years later of a woman’s  body in sight of the plane’s remaining wreckage?

This book has a lot of elements that appeal to me: character relationships are as important as the plot development, the location is vividly portrayed and plays an important part of the story, and a strong mix of history and folklore blend with events of the present day. It is excellent story telling, increasing in complexity as the story develops, until several strands of seemingly unrelated events draw together into a logical and satisfying resolution.

I loved it.

Continuing my recent practice, I’m including this song from Bella Hardy from Edale, Derbyshire; only a few miles from the setting of the book. The images of scenery from that area are by Paul Pearson.

An interview with Stephen Booth, conducted just after the publication of Blood on the Tongue (the quote near the beginning of this post comes from the interview).

I Read





And/or sacred

Seeing the best of things

Or maybe the worst


Or offending


Is offence taken or given?

Distinguish light from


According to

Individual merit 

(or lack of)



Or bias