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Blind to the Bones: A Crime Novel [Hardcover]

Stephen Booth
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 2003

Something sinister is happening on the desolate moors of England's Peak District. The villagers of Withens are dying. Nineteen-year-old Emma Renshaw disappeared two years ago. Her body has never been found, and her parents still cling to the hope that she may be alive.

Now, Neil Granger, one of Emma's former housemates, has been killed in a particularly grotesque way. What was Neil doing out on the moor by the deserted, rat-filled railway tunnel where his bludgeoned remains were discovered? Is there a link between Neil's death and Emma's disappearance? Why didn't Neil offer Emma a ride to the station on the day she vanished? Or did he? Had he been hiding the truth? And what is the significance of Emma's bloodied cellular phone?

While Detective Sergeant Diane Fry focuses on Emma's possible murder -- now a cold case -- her colleague Ben Cooper takes a temporary assignment to probe rural crime. His first task is to investigate a series of burglaries in and around Withens. Thieves have hit nearly every house that has valuables, and even the church has been plundered. Only one family seems to be exempt from the break-ins: the Oxleys. Descended from the workmen who built the tunnels that run two hundred feet below the village, they stick to their own like the sheep on the hillsides, passing on secret knowledge through the generations.

Into the tempest that is Withens come Cooper and Fry, two people who share an emotion-filled professional and personal history, and who must again deal with each other as their separate cases gradually converge. But winning the trust of the locals and establishing a link between the deaths is not their only challenge. What other secrets does the village hold? And even if Cooper and Fry can find the answers, can the guilty ever be brought to justice?

Acknowledged to be one of the most gifted of the new generation of crime writers, Stephen Booth gives us a richly nuanced, brilliantly evoked novel sure to win him many new accolades.


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From Amazon

Family troubles of all shapes and surprises keep the cops hopping and the tension high in English novelist Stephen Booth's fourth Ben Cooper/Diane Fry mystery, Blind to the Bones.

The most affecting of this novel's three plot lines concerns the disappearance of university student Emma Renshaw, who was last seen more than two years ago while on her way home to Derbyshire. Unable to accept that their daughter isn't merely late on the train, that she's more than likely dead, Howard and Sarah Renshaw have gone to extraordinary lengths to find her, consulting psychics and "bombarding the police with theories and suggestions, pleas and demands"--all for naught. But then, suddenly, Emma's blood-stained mobile phone is found, and the Renshaws' faith seems finally to be rewarded. Or is this just another opportunity for disappointment? Meanwhile, Detective Constable Cooper--posted temporarily (he hopes) to a rural crime squad--is investigating burglaries around the depressed old village of Withens, when the battered corpse of one of Emma's ex-housemates turns up on the nearby moors, his face blackened with theatrical make-up and stolen goods left behind in his car. Inquiries lead Cooper to a clannish local family with a history of trouble-making, and put him in the sights of a shadowy group called the Border Rats.

Booth's ability over the course of a story to transform some of his least suspicious players into the most devious (or vice-versa) and his appreciative portrayal of England's scenic Peak District both make for engrossing fiction. Blind to the Bones's subtlest but most intriguing element, though, may be its third plot thread, which finds Detective Sergeant Fry's long-lost, heroin-addicted sister turning up in Edendale, where she tries to enlist Cooper's help in convincing the hard-edged Diane to stop looking for her, once and for all. This track answers several questions about DS Fry's past while raising more--and promising new levels of character development in future installments of this series. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

Set in a damp English village on the midland moors, Booth's fourth suspense novel is a moody, meandering tale, bringing back the two police protagonists of Blood on the Tongue and Dancing with the Virgins. Det. Constable Ben Cooper has just been transferred to a rural beat when he finds himself up to his handcuffs in the gruesome murder of a young man, Neil Granger. Meanwhile, his former superior, Det. Sgt. Diane Fry, is investigating the two-year-old disappearance of 19-year-old Emma Renshaw. The cases are almost certainly related-Emma and Neil both grew up in the Peak District village of Withens and were housemates in the Black Country, an urban area just west of Birmingham-but clues linking them are scarce. As Fry and Cooper pursue their separate investigations, Emma's distraught and unbalanced parents prove a hindrance, and a family of petty criminals further hamper progress. An accidental shooting, the discovery of a second corpse, a possible link to a burglary ring and a suspicious land development deal add more complications. Bogged down in this plethora of subplots, Fry and Cooper are also plagued by personal troubles. Fry's own sister has been missing for 15 years, and Cooper has information about her that he doesn't know whether to share. Though the two detectives wrestle with their feelings for each other, their conflicted relationship produces few sparks. Short on suspense and long on melodrama, this is a tepid effort from a much-praised writer of sophisticated crime fiction.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, readable mystery. May 21 2004
Format:Hardcover
The action takes place in the Peak District of England, and
the author does a superb job of conveying the moods of that
district in particular and of rural English life in general.
Here, there is an especially sad and life-like story of a young
college girl who disappeared 2 years before the story begins,
and her parents cannot bring themselves to even consider the
possibility she might be dead. They always expect her to return, and they keep all of her things just as she left them,
so she can walk right back and take up where she was when she
left. They pester their neighbors and the police almost constantly, trying to goad them into further investigations,
and to further search their memories. To the police, the
case is too old, but then, suddenly, the girl's bloody cell
phone is found near her home, and both the parents and the police come alive with fresh hope. At least, for some resolution of the case.
Ben, the Det.Constable, in a different case, gets transferred,
on a temp. basis, to the Rural Crime Squad, and he has to
repeatedly question some reclusive, suspicious people, who are
all part of the same family. And they are among the most
close-mouthed and uncooperative people he has ever had to question. And nothing he does makes any impression on them.
So while his sometime-friend, and superior, Diane, the Det.Sgt.,
investigates the old case of the missing student, Ben slogs along working on his moody, suspicious clan. And neither are
making any progress, and more questions arise than can be answered.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Deadly dull Dec 30 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I've enjoyed previous Stephen Booth novels but could barely bother to finish this one. Flat, one-dimensional characters, lifeless, implausible dialogue and a dull and muddled plot ruined what could have been an interesting addition to this series. There was no character development whatsoever and I felt I knew less about Diane and Ben at the end of the book than at the beginning.
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Format:Hardcover
I love British writers of mysteries. This was a new author for me, and like most British writers of mysteries and crime novels, he is very much in command of the English language at its best. Unlike American mystery writers who feel they have to insert a swear word every other sentence or feel their books with bloody mayhem...British authors, this one included, tend to use the language better and focus on the plot and characters. They get the attention of the reader through their language and many of them give good insight into the psychological reasons for the murders or crimes committed.
Booth started out well in this book, and it was not a bad read. It just took him forever to get to the point. I don't mind big heavy books, in fact, I read them all the time having to do with bioethics and medicine. But writing just to prolong the book, even if the language is well-written, does nothing to keep the attention of the reader. I half suspect Booth was trying to bring attention to some problems that the British are having with dealing with the complex sociological problems of small towns disappearing and people have no where to go being pushed out by greedy landlords. We have the same problems here in the U.S. and yet in the end, the information concerning this in Blind to the Bones had very little to do with the murder. In fact, more information could have been given concerning the murderer's psyche...but it came rushing in at the end.
I think I will try this author again, with some of his other, more praised books. See if this is a regular problem in his writings, or if it was just this one novel.
Karen Sadler
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5.0 out of 5 stars Small Town Mysteries Nov. 20 2003
Format:Hardcover
Murder once again visits the Peak District of Derbyshire near Edendale in the 4th book of this terrific series. The members of the Derbyshire Constabulary, E Division are called on to work the case, although Ben Cooper has been loaned out to the Rural Crimes Team and Diane Fry is investigating a 2-year-old missing persons case, separating the duelling coppers.
The story centres around the tiny hamlet of Withens leading both Cooper and Fry there on their separate investigations. The murder victim is a young local man named Neil Granger. Granger is part of a large family that makes up the majority of the residents of Withens. It's Ben's job to interview the residents but like so many isolated close-knit communities they are particularly suspicious of outsiders, and this lot are especially suspicious when it comes to the police. Ben can't help but think they are hiding something but doesn't know what.
Meanwhile, there is one old couple in Withens, the Renshaws, who are more than happy to talk. The problem is, the only topic of conversation is their daughter Emma, who went missing 2 years ago. The Renshaws talk of Emma in the present tense, expecting her to walk through their door at any moment, much to Diane Fry's bemusement.
Because of Ben Cooper's secondment to the Rural Crimes Team, Diane has had to use the ever hungry and source of numerous lighter moments, Gavin Murfin. Murfin is taking an increasingly prominent role as the series progresses and is a nice counterpoint to Fry's more dour by the book attitude.
This series is getting stronger and stronger with each new book and the characters of Ben Cooper and Diane Fry are developing nicely. If you're after an exceedingly enjoyable police procedural, I strongly recommend this one. In my opinion, this is the best of the series so far.
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