It is a bitterly cold and snow-filled winter in England's Peak District, and problems begin to pile up as high as the snow for Detective Sergeant Diane Fry and Detective Constable Ben Cooper. First there's the man crushed by a snowplow on a road going over a high pass. Then there's a woman who, from all outward appearances, simply curled into a ball in the snow on Irontongue Hill and waited to freeze to death. And what about the body of a baby that was discovered in the hulk of a World War II bomber?
Fry needs all the help she can get, but her extremely limited patience is wearing v-e-r-y thin. Every time she looks for help from Cooper, he seems to be with a Canadian woman who's come to the area to find out the truth about the disappearance of her grandfather during World War II. Can't that man ever concentrate on what's important?
It took me a while to pick up this third book in the Cooper and Fry series, and I'm glad I finally did. Blood on the Tongue is an excellent blend of old crime and new. Many threads in the story go all the way back to World War II when a bomber crashed on Irontongue Hill, and-- rumor has it-- the Canadian pilot walked away with a very large shipment of money they were transporting to another airbase. It's a complex and very gratifying plot that Booth has created, and I certainly enjoyed trying to piece together all the clues.
I continue to have mixed reactions to the author's dynamic duo of Fry and Cooper. Ben Cooper is the kind of man everyone seems to like and to go to for help. He's nice, he's easy-going, and he has some good intuitive skills that are handy in police work. Him I like, although I should probably be ashamed of falling for him so easily. I'm normally not such a pushover.
On the other hand, Fry continues to rub my fur the wrong way, even though I know what happened in the past to help turn her into a person who acts more like a starving pit bull with toothache. I find that I quickly become exasperated with her when she's on the scene. Fortunately she's seldom in the spotlight in Blood on the Tongue, so I never wanted to throw the book at the wall.
Even though it has little to do with the actual merits of this book, I think my reading enjoyment was enhanced by a trip to the UK last year in which I experienced blizzard-like conditions, road closures and the like in the Peak District. I found myself being able to picture the countryside, feel the bite of the wind, and hear the crunch of the snow under my feet. Even without my "insider's" knowledge of the weather, I think any reader can and will appreciate those outdoor scenes.
Now that I've thawed out enough to share my opinion of this book, I find myself looking forward to reading the next in the series. If only I could find some way not to react so strongly to Diane Fry!
Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth
Scribner © 2002
Hardcover, 387 pages
Police Procedural, #3 Cooper and Fry mystery
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet