Scared to Live (Cooper and Fry Crime Series, Book 7)

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9780007172092: Scared to Live (Cooper and Fry Crime Series, Book 7)
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Ben Fry and Diane Cooper return in another psychological Peak District thriller from the acclaimed author of ‘Blind to the Bones’ and ‘The Dead Place.’

It was an ordinary house fire with tragic consequences: a wife and two children dead. But then for DS Fry and DC Cooper the ordinary always meant trouble.

Trouble like a grieving husband behaving as though his life is in danger. Trouble like a shocking assassination – of an old woman living alone in a quiet Peak District village. Her death suggests that even the most harmless people have cause to expect the unexpected.

But Fry and Cooper are certainly surprised to find a link between the two incidents, one that will take them halfway across Europe and back again in their search for the truth.

Along the way, they discover some of the reasons why people can be scared to live – and the connection at the heart of the enquiry that proves to be the most surprising revelation of all...

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Review:

Praise for ‘The Dead Place’:

'Another thoroughly enjoyable book from one of Britain's best crime writers' Sunday Telegraph

'Dark Derbyshire mystery...not for the squeamish.' Daily Mail

Praise for Stephen Booth and his other novels.

‘Stephen Booth creates a fine sense of place and atmosphere ... the unguessable solution to the crime comes as a real surprise.’ Susanna Yager, 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.’ T J Binyon, Evening Standard

‘In this atmospheric debut, Stephen Booth makes high summer in Derbyshire as dark and terrifying as midwinter.’ Val McDermid

‘Black Dog 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.’ Maxim Jakubowski, Guardian

‘Best traditional crime novel of the year.' Independent, Books of the Year

From the Author:

Some of it was Colin Dexter’s fault. I once heard him say that when he wrote his first Inspector Morse novel, he didn’t realise there would be a series – and that was why he created a detective already approaching retirement age in the first book. It meant Morse could never properly age.
As a reader of crime fiction, I’m most attracted to characters who develop naturally through a series. It engages me more completely in their world. So when I started the first Cooper & Fry novel, BLACK DOG, I knew I wanted my protagonists to be young and junior. Ben and Diane are both in their twenties at the outset, and both are detective constables, at the bottom rung of the promotion ladder.
Now, as the series develops, I can let my characters age – Cooper, in particular, has had a lot of maturing to do. It also means the two of them have another 20 years service with Derbyshire Constabulary before they can collect their pensions!
Focussing on these characters has given me a different perspective on a police investigation. A DC like Cooper doesn’t know everything that’s going on in a major enquiry, but he’s out there on the streets, doing the job, dealing with the people. In the real world it’s the DCs and DSs who interview suspects and take witness statements, not the chiefs back at headquarters. Police officers appreciate the fact that, for once, it’s the junior officers who do all the work!
The other thing I wanted from Cooper and Fry was two different pairs of eyes through which to explore the setting. Ben is the local lad who grew up in the area and knows everyone, while Diane is the outsider from the big city (in this case, Birmingham). Beyond that, their characters developed during the writing process. I’m certainly not responsible for that complicated relationship between them, which took me by surprise.
In the beginning, I was drawn to writing about a rural location... well, a specific location in the form of the uniquely atmospheric Peak District. But I wanted the tone and subject matter of the books to be darker than the location might suggest. My aim is to portray the darkness that lurks below the surface, the hidden secrets behind the picturesque exterior. I can't do better than quote Sherlock Holmes, who once told Watson: "The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." Perfect!
There’s an irresistible symbolism for me in the contrasting landscapes of this area. The White Peak is limestone country - gentle hills, wooded gorges, attractive villages – while the Dark Peak consists of desolate expanses of peat moor and dramatic outcrops of weathered rock that seem to erupt from the ground. White and dark, good and evil – and characters who walk the line between the two as they move about the landscape. Could I ask for more? Well, yes - this area is also packed with history, folklore and legend. And that’s not to mention the conflicts inherent in a national park sandwiched between cities and visited by 30 million people a year. There’s enough here to keep me interested for years.
And every book should be about something that interests me - ideally a subject I’ve just discovered, because I want my excitement to communicate itself to the reader. This sets me a challenge, and every writer should have challenges. The idea for the third novel, BLOOD ON THE TONGUE, connected the wreckage of a 1945 Lancaster bomber with Derbyshire’s Polish community. Polish culture and Second World War aircraft were two subjects I knew nothing about when I started the book. Sometimes aspiring authors are advised to "write what you know". But writing about something you don’t know is much more interesting.
There’s one more thing I do "wrong". For me, writing a novel is a process of discovery, and I don’t know how the story is going to end until I get there. The plot should arise from the characters, not the other way round. Of course, I’m lucky that my protagonists are police detectives – it’s their job to find out what happened, not mine.
But reading has always been about discovery in my mind. As a child, I remember waiting until my parents were out one day, then searching the house to find something new to read. At the bottom of a wardrobe, I unearthed a copy of George Eliot's SILAS MARNER. I hardly understood a word of that book, but it suggested entire worlds out there, waiting for me to discover.
And this is what the writing business is all about – that unique connection between a book and the reader. Creating a novel isn’t a one-way process, with a producer of words at one end and a consumer at the other. A writer’s most powerful tool is the reader’s imagination, and we create the story together. Writing can be hard work, yes. But it’s all worthwhile when that connection is made.
So now Ben, Diane and I have reached the seventh novel, SCARED TO LIVE. Lots of things excited me about this one. I discovered what the dust in my house consists of, and how to curse in Bulgarian. But most of all, I became intrigued by the idea that most people die when they’re least expecting it. Death strikes out of the darkness at night, and innocence is no defence. In SCARED TO LIVE, the victims include a harmless middle-aged woman, living a reclusive existence in a Peak District village. And then there’s the young family destroyed by fire, because of one wrong decision.
But these are only the first pieces in a complex pattern of destruction. As well as new events in their own lives, Cooper and Fry find that the boundaries are coming down in Derbyshire, and there’s plenty for people to be frightened of.
Whoever and wherever you are, there’ll always be that darkness, lurking beneath the surface...
STEPHEN BOOTH

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