Book review: Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth

Secrets of Death byStephen Booth

Secrets of Death byStephen Booth

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A spate of suicides at the Peak District’s beauty spots sets alarm bells ringing for DI Ben Cooper and his police team… could somebody be ‘managing’ these gruesome deaths?

Burnley-born Stephen Booth returns to the dark brooding hills of Derbyshire’s stunning National Park in the sixteenth Cooper and Fry crime thriller, a riveting series which has turned the former journalist into an award-winning author.

Now living in Nottingham, Booth’s atmospheric and edgy crime mysteries have helped to put the raw beauty of the Peak District firmly on the map with his remarkable evocation of both the majestic landscape and the remote towns that dot this corner of northern England.

‘There’s always a right time and place to die.’ As Roger Farrell parks his car near the information centre overlooking beautiful Heeley Bank in the Peak District, these are the words that keep going through his head.

This special place of peace and beauty seems to him the ideal place to die and since he regards happiness as just a ‘cruel sham,’ he is ready and willing to take his own life.

But Farrell is just the latest in a long line of people who have come to the area’s idyllic tourist spots to commit suicide this summer and when a business card with the words ‘Secrets of Death’ and what appears to be a password are found in his car, DI Ben Cooper’s suspicions are aroused.

Fully aware that this corner of the Peaks seems to have ‘darkness lurking in the background,’ Cooper fears someone could be ‘managing’ the suicides… but how would he define that as a crime?

The one survivor of the spate of suicides doesn’t want to co-operate with the police and leads are thin on the ground until Cooper learns that his abrasive former colleague DS Diane Fry, now working in Nottingham, had been about to arrest Farrell before his death.

As the two are propelled into a race against time to find a connection to the suicides, will they track down the truth before more people die?

Secrets of Death sees the crime writing master on top form in an intriguing thriller which delivers a gripping whodunit whilst also exploring the psychology of suicide and, in particular, the concept of ‘suicide tourists.’

At the heart of the story is the resourceful and diligent DI Cooper, his relationship with his former sidekick DS Fry constantly in flux, and each member of his eclectic police team superbly imagined and perfectly fleshed out.

But, as always, the star of the show is the rugged Peak District with its famous tourist spots firmly in the spotlight as a tale of death, despair and malice unfolds with Booth’s trademark excellent plotting and compelling twists and turns.

A master storyteller with an impressive sense of time and place…
(Sphere, hardback, £18.99)