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Black Dog [Paperback]

Stephen Booth
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 5 2007
Combining the qualities of Reginald Hill, Minette Walters and Barbara Vine, Black Dog is an amazingly assured and impressive debut thriller from the most promising new author to emerge in the genre in recent years. It's a long, hot summer in the Peak District, but the blue skies are darkened by police helicopters and the sound of birdsong is drowned out by the increasing hysteria of a full-scale search operation for a missing teenage girl. Laura Vernon is smart, sexy and the keeper of many secrets, but now she's lying dead in a thicket in the heart of the country. Harry Dickinson finds the body, but what instincts make him so bent on obstructing the police investigation into Laura's murder? And what do he and his two fellow retired lead miners find to talk about on those long, balmy nights in the pub, hunched over their game of dominoes? Graham Vernon is a man who knows all about secrets, and the police are at a loss to understand the attitude of this powerful businessman and his glamorous wife to their precious daughter. The Vernons are holding something back. But what could be more important than the discovery of Laura's brutal murderer? Ben Cooper, a young DC living with tragedy, has known the villagers all his life, but his instinctive feelings about the case are called into question by the arrival of Diane Fry, a ruthlessly ambitious DC from another division. As Ben and Diane take the first steps in a complicated dance of suspicion, attraction and frustration, they discover that to understand the present, they must also understand the past -- and in a world where no one is entirely innocent, pain and suffering can be the only outcome.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Amazon

A neat little psychological thriller in the Barbara Vine tradition, debut novelist Stephen Booth's smart, spare suspense story introduces Detective Constable Ben Cooper, an up-and-coming English policeman who fears he'll never be able to fill the shoes of his father, a police sergeant who died a hero's death on the job in Ben's own precinct. Diane Fry, Ben's new partner, is an ambitious woman who's just been transferred to the Edendale force. She's jealous of Ben's familiarity with the locals, who won't tell her anything but treat Ben like a beloved son. The pair is teamed up to investigate the brutal murder of a 15-year-old girl whose parents, like Fry, are outsiders. The old man who finds Laura Vernon's body is an enigmatic, close-mouthed man who obviously knows more than he's telling, but even Ben can't budge Harry Dickinson from his determination to keep the real story of what happened in the dark woods of England's brooding Peak District to himself. Laura's father is anxious to pin the crime on a local boy who may have had sexual designs on her and who's conveniently gone missing. But the search for the killer turns up the dark secrets of the Vernons as well as a number of other suspects who keep Ben and Diane guessing until the last page of this well-written, carefully paced, and deeply atmospheric novel. A strong first showing from a writer worth watching, with a protagonist who'd be good company in a return engagement. --Jane Adams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The cryptic activities of eccentric, uncooperative murder suspect Harry Dickinson add depth to this intriguing first-time offering, a psychological suspense story from a British journalist. Dickinson is one of a triad of macabre old men who haunt the woods and countryside near Edendale in northern England's Peak District. Out walking his black Labrador one sweltering August evening, the retired miner finds a running shoe belonging to Laura Vernon, a 15-year-old reported missing from her mansion on the Mount. Investigating the case is a promising young local detective, Ben Cooper, whose heart is set on a sergeant's post also sought by the Edendale Police Division's icy new up-and-comer, Diane Fry. Personal troublesDCooper's mentally ill mother and memories of his heroic cop father's murder, and Fry's dim recollection of past terrorsDdistract the two from their work, but somehow they patch together a case, sexual tension building between them all the while. The list of suspects, including Dickinson and Laura's wealthy father, Graham Vernon, grows to include the Vernons' gardener and Mrs. Vernon's young lover; Laura's biker boyfriend; and a few business associates of the Vernons'. Cooper is sickened to learn that Vernon's male and female co-workers and clients of his financial consultancy business were often invited to the Mount for orgiesDand that a few may have included Laura. But Cooper, too, is demonstrating increasingly unprofessional behavior, which costs him dearly and deprives Fry of her promotion. Only his brother Matt understands that Cooper may be suffering from the mental "black dog" of his mother's schizophrenia. The leisurely pace and Dickinson's philosophical conversations with his friends on loyalty, death and television detective shows may disappoint readers of fast moving crime fiction, but Booth's intention here, at which he succeeds admirably, is to unveil secret lives against the seemingly placid background of a country village.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A matter of perspective... Jan. 2 2002
Whether or not one thinks BLACK DOG is the most amazing book ever written or a run-of-the-mill mystery will undoubtedly be tied to one's perspective and prior reading experience. I have read mostly British mysteries (ALL of Sayers, Christie, James, Dexter, Ellis, Allingham, Walters, Hall, Hill, Robinson, etc.) as well as a few American writers (Cornwall, Evanovich). For me, although BLACK DOG is well written, it is a run-of-the-mill British mystery -- great for grabbing in an airport book store to while away the hours standing in the security lines or seated on airplanes. I would not place Booth in the top tier of recently "arrived" British mystery writers (i.e. Minette Walters) as some have. However, like Jill McGowan he shows promise of surviving the long haul without becoming a super star.
Booth's character development is comparable to Reginald Hill's (medium), although Ben Cooper is more akin to Peter Pasco than Dalziel. Ben Cooper has a future, but I don't find Diane Fry appealing. I think Booth would have done better to spend more time in Cooper's head and less in Fry's. Rare is the writer who can inspire a protagonist of the opposite sex. P.D. James succeeded with Adam Dalglish, but Dalglish is older like James, and older men and women tend to think more alike than not. Life simply wears one down around the edges and narrows the differences.
Booth's forensics events are familiar, particularly if you are a fan of Patricia Cornwell, who did a masterful job of explaining the progression of the decomposition of the human body in BODY FARM. I suppose every mystery/crime writer has to resort to forensics these days, but it gets tiresome to read about flies and maggots over and over.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Taut First Novel Jan. 28 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Stephen Booth has created a very taut psychological thriller in his first novel, Black Dog; thereby establishing himself as an exciting new British mystery writer. This book is a dark mystery with many dark secrets--both of the parents of a murdered girl and the inhabitants of Peak District where they live.
Black Dog is the story of Detective Constable Ben Cooper, an English policeman who constantly worries that he will never equal his hero father. Diane Fry, an ambitious outsider, becomes his new partner, and they proceed to investigate the murder of a 15-year-old girl. Her parents, though, pose an obstacle. They are outsiders to the community and really do not seem anxious about finding the murderer of their daughter.
Ah, but then there is the old man and his black dog who found the body. He is closed mouth giving the impression he may know more. But does he? What is the real story. It is up Ben Cooper to find out.
This book is a great first mystery from Stephen Booth, and I look forward to reading more from him.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Start Jan. 16 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
At the beginning of the novel, helicopters are searching the Peak District in northern England searching for missing 15-year-old, Laura Vernon. Detective Constable Ben Cooper is assigned to the case where it seems that the girl's parents are indifferent to their missing daughter. The townspeople are not much help, particularly Harry Dickinson who finds Laura's shoe and then her body.
Cooper is trying hard to fight his father's ghost, a cop killed on duty, as well as other personal demons. He is teamed-up with Detective Constable Diane Fry, a newcomer to Cooper's police precinct. She is ambitious, headstrong and manages to take the case away from Cooper. They are opposites in personality and there are moments of friction between them in deciding how to investigate the case.
It is a good start to what seems to be a promising new series. I would like to see a deeper exploration of Cooper's jealousy toward Fry. The ending in the book seemed a little forced. The guilty are charged and sent to jail but it almost seems like an afterthought. There is a theme of friendship and loyalty between two of the townspeople but I did not feel it while reading the novel. The book mostly explores the personalities of Cooper and Fry as well as the alienation they both feel with their lives. On another side, Laura Vernon's parents have a lot of secrets and it does not help that the townspeople do not like these newcomers in their village.
I liked this book and I am looking forward to reading DANCING WITH THE VIRGINS, Booth's next novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Debut Sept. 6 2001
In Stephen Booth's debut novel, we are taken to the Peak District of England. It's in this setting that a 15-year-old girl, Laura Vernon, has gone missing only to be found later, murdered. She is from a wealthy family who are new to the district, and so are known as 'comers-in' by the locals, meaning they will consequently be treated as outsiders. It is because of this that the locals are not particularly helpful when questioned by the police.
The beginning of the book is very reminiscent of A Place of Execution by Val McDermid. In both books a young girl is missing from a small rural community, the locals are not particularly helpful with the police and the detectives working on the case are young with their eyes cast to furthering their career.
Mystery not only surrounds the murder of Laura Vernon, many of the integral characters in the book are harbouring secrets. The main character, DC Ben Cooper is dealing with his mother's schizophrenia, his new partner DC Diane Fry has just arrived in Edendale and has brought personal problems of her own. Laura Vernon's parents are both harbouring secrets that they are keen not to let out and Harry Dickenson, the man who found Laura, is being very close-lipped as well. Even Laura Vernon herself was leading a secret life that would have shocked her parents had they found out.
The surrounding Derbyshire countryside of the beautiful Peak District is described with exceptional clarity giving us an insight into countryside that must be simply breathtaking to behold. Although not being overly dwelt on, scene after scene is given a wonderful backdrop of the surrounding land, which gave me a strong sense of actually being there.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great start to a great series
I reviewed book 3 in this series as one of the best. This is good introduction to Booth's writing and the series overall.
Published 9 months ago by Sir Steven
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Booth
I am reading all of his books, I wish I would of started them in order, but now I am filling in the gaps and enjoy all of them.
I love a mystery in a little town.
Published 12 months ago by Linda Esposito
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric mystery
This is a new author for me and very happy to have found him. Nice atmospheric tale by someone who seems well acquainted with the sinister undertones below the charming surface of... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2009 by Slipping Away
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed Despite Good Reviews
Although the reviews for this debut police procedural were glowing, I found myself disappointed. The author does a great job setting the scene and the local characters are... Read more
Published on March 21 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb,Exciting,a New British Look!
Well and superbly done! The twists and turns,the clever and cunning characters,and 'a new look' at British Law and Order were compelling,making it hard to put down overnight! Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Dog is a really magnificent book!
A body has been found in the Peak District in Northern England. It's the body of 15-year-old Laura Vernon. The only daughter of Graham and his wife, Charlotte Vernon. Read more
Published on July 16 2001 by Stacey Bucholz
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Dog, an incredible mystery
From the moment Detective Constable Ben Cooper finds young Laura Vernon's lifeless body his life goes steadily downhill. Read more
Published on July 16 2001 by Stacey
4.0 out of 5 stars Good British mystery
Black Dog puts me in mind of books by some of my favorite authors--Barbara Vine,Ian Rankin and others. The plot keeps you guessing. Read more
Published on May 26 2001 by Suspense Fan
1.0 out of 5 stars I read it again and it still is the worst I've read
Okay, perhaps I was having a bad weekend when I first read Black Dog. I read the reviews, and thought that I had surely missed something. Read more
Published on April 14 2001 by R. M. Talkington III
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