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FALL DOWN DEAD
by Stephen Booth
Sphere, October 2018
384 pages
$34.99 CAD
ISBN: 0751567612


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I'm constantly surprised when I run into a crime fiction fan who, for whatever reason, has somehow never heard of a best-selling and award-winning author. A case in point is the British novelist Stephen Booth. Over the past two decades Booth has written over twenty novels, eighteen of them in his fine Cooper and Fry series, set in the Peak District of his native land. His stories have earned Booth two Barry awards (2001, 2002) for Best British Crime Novel, and CWA Daggers awards (in 2001 and 2003), in addition to his novels having been shortlisted twice (in 2006 and 2007) for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the year. So I was understandably delighted to receive a review copy of Booth's latest Cooper and Fry novel, FALL DOWN DEAD, and I must say from the outset that it doesn't disappoint.

Detective Inspector Ben Cooper has an unexplained death on his desk. Faith Matthews has gone on a mountain-trekking hike in the Peak District with a group of like-minded friends, only to fall from a cliff and die on the rocks below. The group is known as the New Trespassers Walking Club, and it is headed by a charismatic man whose own roots can be traced to an earlier group involving his uncle. Amongst the other climbers are a couple of university students, an older couple, Faith's brother Jonathan, Darius Roth, and his wife Elsa. But when he arrives at the scene, something about it bothers DI Cooper. The position of the body and the footprints on the ledge above are ambiguous, giving rise to the question, did she fall or was she pushed? Given that there was a thick fog at the time and no one witnessed the fall, it will be difficult if not impossible to prove.

Meanwhile, Cooper's close ally and longtime friend, Detective Sergeant Diane Fry, is facing challenges of her own. On the eve of her own promotion she's been called before an officer from Professional Standards, who is looking into not one, but two separate issues: that she assaulted a superior officer several years back, and that her sister was involved in the drugs trade, which she did not report. Either complaint could spell an end to her policing career.

FALL DOWN DEAD is a contemporary retelling of a traditional locked-room mystery, with a limited cast of suspects and no clear certainty that a crime had even been committed. The core of the tale is expertly layered with elements of DS Fry's personal backstory, involving allegations of unprofessional conduct, and the whole draws on taut atmospheric settings combined with convincing characters immersed in a well-crafted plot that makes for compelling reading.

Since 2005 Jim Napier's reviews and interviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on various crime fiction and literary websites, including his own award-winning review site, Deadly Diversions. His debut crime novel Legacy was published in the Spring of 2017, and the second in the series, Ridley's War, is scheduled for release in the Summer of 2019.

Reviewed by Jim Napier, April 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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