The Dead Place by Stephen Booth

The Dead Place is the sixth book in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry mystery series by Stephen Booth (after One Last Breath and followed by Scared to Live.) That being said, having done it, I’d say it’s okay to read some of the books out of order as standalones; provided you read the first book Black Dog, which is fabulous, by the way. I can’t recommend this series enough.

Summary: “This killing will be a model of perfection. An
accomplishment to be proud of. And it could be tonight or maybe next week. But
it will be soon. I promise.”

The anonymous phone calls indicate a disturbed mind with an
unnatural passion for death. Cooper and Fry are hoping against hope that the
caller is just a harmless crank having some sick fun. But the clues woven
through his disturbing messages point to the possibility of an all-too-real
crime… especially when a woman vanishes from an office parking garage.
But it’s the mystery surrounding an unidentified female
corpse left exposed in the woods for over a year that really has the detectives
worried. Whoever she might have been, the dead woman is linked to the mystery
caller, whose description of his twisted death rituals matches the bizarre
manner in which the body was found. And the mystery only deepens when Cooper
obtains a positive I.D. and learns that the dead woman was never reported
missing and that she definitely wasn’t murdered. As the killer draws them
closer into his confidence, Ben and Diane learn everything about his deadly
obsessions except what matters most: his identity and the identity of his next
My thoughts: The last time I was this addicted to a book series was Harry Potter, and considering the Potter-fanatic that I am, that’s saying something. The thing I love the most about these Cooper and Fry books, which may be classified as police procedural, is that they are all about the characters. Like Stephen King, Booth manages to dive right into people’s minds and build true to life characters. You don’t always like them nor agree with them, especially not Diane Fry, but that’s what makes them click. Ben Cooper is, of course, easy to be fond of, it’s great to be inside his mind, read his thoughts and his instincts and how he feels for the victims. But even with Fry, he makes a good partnership (okay, it’s not good, more like challenging), and together they’re unlike your usual awkward-tension-turns-to-love pairs.

The Dead Place, not surprisingly, is about death. It’s about the morbid fascination that so many people seem to have with dying, the book is also about the history of death or death in history, sarcophagi and cremation and all that. The Dead Place, on a more positive note, is about dealing with loss and facing death on a personal and professional front. It takes you to grieving families in various stages of shock and denial, and at the same time, gives you a glimpse into the coolly detached workings of a funeral home. Death is a part of life and in The Dead Place, Booth gives it an emotional depth rarely achieved in murder mysteries.

The thing that makes The Dead Place work, above all, is the atmosphere. The picturesque imagery of the northern English countryside is rich with detail. You just know he knows what he’s writing about, and you find yourself right there inside the books. It’s the unique combination of a swift plot with brooding, often meandering writing, quite unlike the usual action packed thrillers out there, that makes The Dead Place so special.

I would recommend this book to anyone who (as the dedication of the book goes) has ever had to deal with death.

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