THE DEVIL’S EDGE by STEPHEN BOOTH (2011, Little, Brown Book Group / Sphere, Paperback, 440pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: A series of brutal home invasions is terrorizing the Peak District. Until now the burglars haven’t left a clue. This time they’ve left a corpse. But as the death toll rises, two intrepid cops begin to suspect that the robberies – and the murders – are not what they seem.
This is the eleventh book in Booth’s Cooper and Fry series, but the first one I have read. Booth obviously has story arcs running through the series to retain continuity and a loyal reader base, but it is not essential to have read earlier books in the series. However, those having done so may have been drawn more quickly into the story.
I found the first part of the book a little slow, with long passages describing the setting (the Peak Districts and the village of Riddings) and little progression in the investigation. There was some detail around DS Ben Cooper’s engagement to Liz, a member of the SOCO team. Also we follow his partner, DS Diane Fry, who is attending a course on Implementing Strategic Change and resisting the advances of a randy colleague.
Meanwhile one of Riddings’ rich residents has been hospitalised in the latest in a spate of home invasions. Local wisdom points to a gang known as The Savages. Cooper has other ideas and as the plot unfolds we meet a wide array of village characters who could have strayed from an Agatha Christie or Midsomer Murders story.
As the tale progresses we are also introduced to a new DC in Carol Villiers, who has served in the military police in Afghanistan. She gives a potential future romantic triangle with Cooper and Liz as we are made aware they are old school friends.
The story may lack the harder of edge of many modern mysteries, but is an entertaining, if unsurprising read and should please fans of old-school mystery writing. Booth stays within the confines of his well-defined setting and overcomes the familiarity of his characters with a sturdy plot, which is helped by some late twists.
Author’s website: www.stephen-booth.com