Dead and Buried


Long term readers probably suspected it all along, but there’s a rather interesting little piece here where author Stephen Booth recounts his introduction to the key characters in a series that has run out to twelve titles with a thirteenth out in June.

It as, it seems, a quite deliberate plan, though the two characters Ben Cooper and Diane Fry, were, in Booth’s explanation seen from a distance, with a few basic impressions and subsequently, one imagines, Booth had room to move and twist things around as their true personalities emerged through the series.

He had his setting in Derbyshire’s Peak District, wanted to avoid another Rebus or similarly old, embittered world-weary, middle-aged detective inspector, so the two characters needed to be young and junior ... on the bottom rung of the ladder in CID. Given the location he wanted them to have differing points of view, and, by extension, different ambitions, though he figured a little role reversal was in order. Given the need for one to be local, the other an outsider, one sensitive and the other hard-nosed, one ambitious and the other less aspirational a bit of gender role reversal had Cooper as the sensitive, happy to stay where he was brought up local and Fry as the hard-nosed ambitious outsider.

It’s a combination that worked well enough to have the Booth titles move from grab the next one when it hits the shelves in the local library to chase down the next title once you’re aware that it’s out there.

After eleven titles there’s a fair bit of development from that original glimpse, and by Dead and Buried Diane Fry’s on the way up the promotion ladder having worked her way up to Detective Inspector in the Major Crimes Unit, with Detective Sergeant Cooper happily about to settle down in the old familiar location, in the process of setting out the arrangements for his wedding. Crime scene officer Liz Petty seems almost totally focussed on her big day, and Cooper’s finding the whole thing a distraction as he sets about dealing with two seemingly unrelated cases as the Peak District of England goes up in flames as wildfires, probably caused by arson, spread across the moors. They’re the worst seen in the area in decades, and the fire crews are flat out.

Firemen fighting one such outbreak sight signs of a break in at an abandoned and not quite derelict pub, Cooper heads out to investigate. The Light House, located on an out of the way moorland road, closed its doors two years before and turns out to be the key to the whole thing, but Ben’s not quite inside when he’s alerted to what seems to be a much more significant discovery.

Fire fighters report finding a buried rucksack and a leather wallet out on the moorland, and since there’s a not quite cold case involving the disappearance of David and Trisha Pearson, a couple of tourists reported missing two years previously who seem to have disappeared without trace in the middle of a snowstorm. At the time they vanished there had been some controversy, with allegations of financial improprieties that may have prompted a staged disappearance.

Under the circumstances this seems much more important than investigating a reported break in.

Which, of course, is what Cooper should have done since the reader already knows there’s a body in there (thanks to the opening sequence). The possible link to the missing couple brings the Major Crimes Unit into the picture and, predictably, the body we knew was there is found by Diane Fry, providing ample excuses for her to start heaping grief on her former colleagues.  There are some major issues in Fry’s past, as the long term reader is well aware, but, really, she seems to be turning into a genuine, dyed in the wool B with a capital itch. as far as she’s concerned she’s finished with her former colleagues in the Peak District, has definitely moved on with an eye to the future and is going to resent any circumstance that might drag her back.

So while she’s sniping at the former colleagues some of them, most notably the close to retirement and therefore increasingly disinclined to worry about upsetting his superiors old-school copper, Gavin Murfin, are sniping right back.

As the investigation starts to focus on the now derelict Light House we meet former landlord Maurice Wharton, whose stock in trade involved insulting his customers, and is now facing terminal illness.  The two strands, inevitably, wind up intertwined and are brought together in an unexpected and harrowing climax that opens a number of soap opera possibilities for the next instalment, Already Dead, due to hit the market in June.

© Ian Hughes 2012