An atmospheric new Fry and Cooper thriller for fans of Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill.
On a rain-swept Derbyshire moor, hounds from the local foxhunt find the body of a well-dressed man whose head has been crushed. Yet an anonymous caller reports the same body lying half a mile away. Called in to investigate the discovery, detectives DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper become entangled in the violent world of hunting and hunt saboteurs, horse theft and a little-known sector of the meat trade.
As Fry follows a complex trail of her own to unravel the shady business interests of the murder victim, Cooper realizes that the answer to the case might lie deep in the past. History is everywhere around him in the Peak District landscape – particularly in the ‘plague village’ of Eyam, where an outbreak of Black Death has been turned into a modern-day tourist attraction.
But, even as the final solution is revealed, both Fry and Cooper find themselves having to face up to the disturbing reality of the much more recent past.
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Praise for Dying to Sin:
‘Clever, intricate plot… Cooper is an ascendant Lewis to Fry’s lonely, bitter Morse in this… gripping procedural’ Financial Times
Praise for Scared to Live:
'It's easy to see why Stephen Booth's novels are so popular. The Peak District's awesome scenery is an ideal background for a murder or two; he has developed his two principal characters into rounded personalities and he always gives them an intriguing mystery to investigate' Sunday Telegraph
'A modern master of rural noir' Guardian
'Booth's aim is to portray the darkness that lies below the surface… in this he succeeds wonderfully well' Daily Mail
'Ingenious plotting and richly atmospheric' Reginald Hill
Praise for Stephen Booth:
'Stephen Booth creates a fine sense of place and atmosphere … the unguessable solution to the crime comes as a real surprise' Sunday Telegraph
'The complex relationship between [Cooper and Fry] is excellently drawn, and is combined with an intriguing plot and a real sense of place: Stephen Booth is an author to keep an eye on' Evening Standard
'Stephen Booth makes high summer in Derbyshire as dark and terrifying as midwinter' Val McDermid
'Sinks its teeth into you and doesn't let go … A dark star may be born!' Reginald Hill
'A leading light of British crime writing' GuardianFrom the Author:
One strand of the story is set in 1968, but one character describes it as being ‘more like the Fifties’ in Derbyshire. Does that sense of anachronism still exist?
Yes, in certain areas. But I think this is true of all the remoter parts of Britain. I’ve personally visited places where I felt as though I was stepping back in time by a good 10 or 20 years. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I love places which are able to retain their unique character, despite the arrival of the 21st Century. The Peak District still has lots of those.
To what extent do you think the current events of the 60s, such as the Cold War, informed the local mindset then?
Living through the 1960s was a very odd experience, in retrospect. It’s strange how we only seem to remember the music and the fashions, and all the things that went with them. In fact, for most of the country, Carnaby Street was a remote and alien concept. When I look back at my childhood, growing up in the 60s, one of the things I remember most is that we lived with the expectation of a Third World War starting at any moment. We all knew about the four-minute warning of a nuclear attack. At school, a common topic of discussion was what we do during those last four minutes before the bombs hit. So I was interested in exploring the idea of how that awareness could affect the way people lived their lives.
In the series, you draw upon the differences between attitudes in the city and the country. How did you decide to explore this with the emotive issue of hunting?
Given the area in which the Cooper & Fry series is set, it was inevitable that I’d tackle the issue of fox hunting at some stage. People who live in the countryside often have ambivalent attitudes to hunting, and Ben Cooper’s approach represents this conflict. Diane Fry, on the other hand, has no knowledge of hunting and her views are founded on ignorance. I was intrigued by the fact that active support for hunting has increased dramatically since the anti-hunting legislation was introduced a few years ago. That shows us something about country people, doesn’t it? They don’t like being told what to do!
Diane Fry keeps using the wrong words (e.g. ‘dogs’ when the locals say ‘hounds) so it’s obvious she’s from somewhere else. But can an outsider ever fit into such a tight-knit community, even if they wanted to?
No. In a really tight-knit community, you’re always an outsider until your family has lived there for generations. Of course, there are fewer and fewer communities now which are quite so insular. But in Britain you don’t have to do much to be regarded as an outsider. When I was a child, my family moved just 30 miles from one part of Lancashire to another, and all the kids made fun of me because my accent was so different! Diane is not only a city girl, she’s from the Black Country, so she marks herself out as soon as she opens her mouth. She will always be an outsider, and that’s why I like her as a character.
What drew you to use the village of Eyam as a key setting?
I love to use some aspect of the Peak District’s history in my books, and the story of the Eyam ‘plague village’ is one of the best known. It’s a very atmospheric place in its own right, especially when you stand in the main street and look at the plaques outside the cottages with the names of the plague victims listed on them. One Eyam woman had to bury her entire family with her own hands during that period. Anyone with an ounce of imagination can’t escape being affected by such stories.
‘One man’s pet is another man’s protein,’ says the suspect who’s supplying horse meat. An acceptable view?
Well, he’s right of course, in pointing out that horse meat is very healthy, with half the fat of beef and ten times the Omega Threes to reduce your cholesterol level. It’s also free from bird ’flu, mad cow disease, tuberculosis, Foot and Mouth… From a practical point of view, what’s not to like? Lots of countries in Europe eat horse meat, yet most of us here in the UK find the idea unacceptable. In the USA, they’re even more anti. And let’s not even mention eating dogs... At the same time, we happily consume cows and pigs, which in other parts of the world are taboo. It’s entirely cultural, isn’t it?
Did the inspiration for this book come from the idea of the kill call itself, and its double meaning?
As with many of my books, it was a coming together of several apparently unrelated subjects – in this case, those subjects were hunting, the plague village, and the legacy of the Cold War. The concept of the kill call formed the link between them and gave me the direction of the story. It’s one of those irresistible synchronicities that the kill call consists of three long notes on a hunting horn, while the warning of imminent nuclear fallout is three bursts of a maroon. It’s true that everything comes in threes…
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