Review: The Corpse Bridge by Stephen Booth (4/5)

Wednesday 18 June 2014
The old Corpse Bridge is the route taken for centuries by mourners from villages on the western fringes of Derbyshire to a burial ground across the River Dove, now absorbed into the landscaped parkland of a stately home. When Earl Manby, the landowner, announces plans to deconsecrate the burial ground to turn it into a car park for his holiday cottages, bodies begin to appear once again on the road to the Corpse Bridge. Is there a connection with the Earl's plans? Or worse, is there a terrifying serial killer at work?

Back in his job after the traumatic events of previous months, Detective Sergeant Ben Cooper knows that he must unravel the mystery of the Corpse Bridge if he's going to be able to move on with his life. As the pressure builds, Ben doesn't know who he can trust and, when the case reaches breaking point, he has to make a call that could put everything - and everyone - at risk..

I was very excited to get a review copy of this book and couldn't wait to get stuck in. There are a number of British crime authors whose books I eagerly anticipate each year and Stephen Booth is one of them. A lot of my crime fiction reads take place in London and the US but Booth's are set in the Peak District and are some of my favourites. He really captures his settings and is extremely knowledgable about what he's talking about. Often an author will set their book in a place and apart from a few place names it could be set anywhere. Booth knows his area and it's almost like you are there for real when you read the book.

Picking up a Cooper and Fry book is like getting reacquainted with old friends. After the events of previous books Ben is in a bad way and is trying to get his life back on track. Even the scenes of normality, him in his house for example reflecting on life are some of my most favourite. He's such a complex and intriguing character that it's fascinating to see what goes on in his mind. You know when you are reading a Booth novel, he has a very distinctive writing style. We see Ben at a crime scene with no build up or explanation, the chapter begins and he is just there. The crime scene is the body of a dead woman on the Corpse Bridge. These chapters were hugely atmospheric as they occurred on Halloween. Even though I was reading in the middle of the day is was very eery. Ben and his colleagues must find out who killed this woman and what the significance of the area is.

Where I think Booth excels over his colleagues is he goes into such detail and history about his scenes. It might not be to some people's tastes, often there can be too much detail but for me it adds depth and realism to the story and authenticity. I feel like I'm a little bit more cleverer after finishing a Booth novel (for about five minutes anyway...). I had no idea who had killed Sandra Blair or indeed why. Even after 200 pages I had no idea or how the story would progress. Usually with crime fiction you have a few ideas, well I had none here. The plot felt very 'human' if that's the way to describe it. It wasn't particularly over the top or sensationalist, just a brilliant story you could imagine happening in real life alongside some fantastic characters. The build up was just right and the last 120 pages or so had me hooked and finishing the book in the early hours.

One of my favourites in the book is DC Luke Irvine. Behind every good detective is a brilliant protege and for me that's Irvine. Also Diane Fry. Fry and Cooper together on the page is always brilliant. Both are fascinating characters and after 14 books are still intriguing me and keeping me interested. The series for me shows no signs of slowing down. Usually I am disappointed to finish a Booth novel however I ended this one just feeling excited about the future and the next book from this author. There are some huge developments for both Cooper and Fry but to say any more would ruin it. The book can be read as a standalone and whilst those new to the series may not have time to go back and read them all, it would be a good idea to at least go back a couple of books before reading this one. For Booth fans though this is one of his best books to date and I really can't see it disappointing you so do not hesitate to pick it up and devour it!

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