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by Stephen Booth
Scribner, October 2002
384 pages
ISBN: 0743236181

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Once again several horrendous crimes occur in the Peak district, and Sergeant Diane Fry and Constable Ben Cooper must try to solve them in addition to dealing with their own emotional problems and issues. The first violence occurs when a group of men attack two drug dealers with baseball bats. While we might be sympathetic, vigilantism cannot be encouraged. Then during a heavy snow storm the snow plow uncovers the dead body of a man at Snake Pass.

A Canadian woman, Alison Morrisey, arrives hoping to discover what really happened to her grandfather who had piloted a Liberator bomber during World War II that went down on Irontongue Hill. There were only two known survivors, the pilot and Zygmant Lukacz, a Pole, who still lives in town with his family. Finally a woman freezes to death not far from the wreckage of the bomber during the same snow storm that produced the unidentified body. All these strands twist and turn upon one another and finally come together in a superb solution that leaves the reader completely satisfied.

The main character almost seems to be the environment. The land is rugged and it is difficult to scratch out a living here. The men are used to taking the law into their own hands and often have disdain for the police. The heavy snowfall and the cold just intensify the surroundings and make life that much more difficult for everyone. The world seems gray and dark and the cold pierces to the bone.

Characters are suitably rugged also and very well drawn. We meet people of all walks of life who have had to make do with very little and somehow have managed to survive. They all are authentic and believable and so carefully delineated that there is no problem at all keeping them separate. Especially interesting, perhaps, is the Polish family who, with the other Polish immigrants, create an enclave within the British community where they can retain their culture, their customs, and their language. Yet the younger generation is losing the values and beliefs that their parents brought from Poland.

Of course Diane Fry and Ben Cooper are at the center of the novel. Sparks dart between them and Fry, the superior officer, is often frustrated and angry with Cooper. A native of this area, he is laid-back and comfortable about this unsettling world. Fry, on the other hand, is frequently uncomfortable in it and alone besides. They are very dissimilar and yet, somehow, they are always linked.

The book is very well-written and enjoyable to read. The prose will not pull the reader out of the story and the descriptions of place are so well done it is possible to see it in one's mind. Once immersed in this book, it is hard even to come up for air.

One of the intriguing designs in the story is the fact that we cannot escape the past. It influences the present (and the future) no matter how hard we try to escape. We cannot just brush it off or ignore it. That plane crash and the subsequent events led to tragedy, unhappiness, and fear as certainly as if the events were deliberate. It is well that we remember that the past is always with us.

This is an excellent story, well set in place, with atmosphere, characters, and a complex and intriguing plot. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, November 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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