Lost River

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lost River.jpg

After nine stories in the Ben Cooper - Diane Fry series one almost gets the impression that Stephen Booth has said something along the lines of sod this for a joke, time to tie up a few loose ends as far as Diane Fry is concerned.

As far back as series opener Black Dog we've known Diane Fry has personal issues stemming from the sexual assault in Birmingham that prompted her move to Derbyshire's Peak District. After skirting around the issue in subsequent volumes and gradually unpeeling the details of Fry's personal background, particularly her dysfunctional relationship with sister Angie it's hard to see what further mileage Booth is going to get out of the assault as anything other than a disturbing element in Fry's turbulent past.

The prospect of new DNA evidence that could be the basis for a prosecution has Fry heading off to Birmingham on indefinite leave of absence to co-operate with the investigation. Her absence provides the excuse for Ben Cooper to get the promotion to Detective Sergeant that was stymied by Fry's arrival on the rural Derbyshire scene.

By the end of the story, with Booth having taken the prime suspects for the assault out of the on-going picture, revealing more about Fry's personal background than he managed to give away in nine previous volumes you get the impression that the series is about to veer off in an entirely different direction as Fry seems to be intent on closure that'll involve a posting away from Cooper territory in Derbyshire.

That move doesn't entirely preclude some on-going Cooper-Fry interaction, however, since the failure of the rape prosecution to develop along the lines Fry would have preferred has her departing from her previously straight up and down by the book persona, displaying an unexpected willingness to throw away the rule book and cut corners in direct contravention of the procedures outlined in the standard operating manual.

Cooper, on the other hand, has issues of his own, most of which centre on his involvement in the apparently accidental drowning of eight-year-old Emily Nield. As far as anyone can tell, Emily was mid-stream playing with the family dog when she slipped and fell, hitting her head on a rock. Cooper was in the vicinity, races to the scene of the accident but arrives too late to save Emily's life.

That sort of scenario is going to throw in some personal issues along the I wish I'd been able to do more lines that has Cooper getting closely enough involved with the grieving family to realise that there's something seriously amiss in the background, particularly where teenage computer gamer Alex Nield is concerned.

The reader's reaction to this story in particular is going to depend on where you're coming from as far as the series is concerned, and the departure from the Peak District countryside (the Fry-centric action is, predictably, almost entirely set in Birmingham) way well be getting away from what kept the reader going through the series to date.

Then there are the coincidences that seem to be piling up to an extent that you wouldn't expect in real life as Fry's foster brother and the man who appears to have been her biological father turn up contaminating the DNA evidence that was supposed to be bringing the rape case towards a court appearance.

There are also hints, as Fry goes around her investigations about what went wrong with the prosecution, of some previously unsuspected bigger picture that may well be the new engine that'll take the series forward now that we know, more or less, what happened in the sexual assault and have a fair idea of who was responsible.

Sighting number eleven, The Devil's Edge in the Cannonvale Big W was what prompted the search that turned up Lost River in the local library, and with the series pretty evenly split between what's sitting on my own bookshelves and what's been tracked down using the library card. More will be revealed when I tackle that one, and developments from here will be interesting since Booth has effectively killed off one major plot driver here.

© Ian Hughes 2012