Author: Stephen Booth
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2002
Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #2 Cooper and Fry mystery
Source: Paperback Swap
First Line: On the day the first woman died, Mark Roper had radio trouble.
In a remote area of the Peaks District in England, a prehistoric ring of stones called the Nine Virgins witnesses the brutal murder of a young cyclist. When Detective Constable Ben Cooper and Detective Sergeant Diane Fry learn that another woman was attacked by an assailant with a knife less than half a mile from the Nine Virgins, they feel they've found the start of a pattern that needs to be stopped immediately.
After enjoying the first book in the series, Black Dog, I expected to settle down to another good read, and Dancing With the Virgins did start well. Author Stephen Booth is a master of the atmospheric setting of the Peaks District-- making it appear both beautiful and menacing-- and his two main characters are finely drawn. However, I had several major problems with this book.
Those very same main characters that I'm getting to know so well are rubbing my fur the wrong way. Diane Fry is the Queen of Not-Letting-Anyone-Get-Close. She realizes this but doesn't know what to do about it... or if she even wants to do anything about it. She's so prickly that, no matter what anyone does, they put their foot in it. I may understand some of her motivations, but after a while prickly gets old, and I begin to wish that she could remain civil to everyone for one entire hour.
Ben Cooper, on the other hand, is the opposite of Diane Fry. Where Diane Fry sees black or white, everything is in shades of grey to Ben Cooper. He has a difficult time saying no to anyone and seems to want to be all things to all people. As a result, he seems frozen in place at times.
The pacing of the book was glacial and came very close to being a Did Not Finish for me. The first substantive clue for the main murder occurred on page 380 of a 528-page book. The culprits for this were the many subplots that sucked all the life out of the investigation into the murder of the cyclist. Besides the murder, there were plot threads involving child pornography, illegal dog fighting, a corrupt cop, two young homeless men camped out in a broken-down van, domestic violence, a young park ranger learning the ropes... and others. If there'd been fewer subplots, I think things would've moved a bit faster and the book would've held my interest.
As it stands, Dancing With the Virgins just didn't work for me. I do have the third book in the series here, and I will read it. But it will be a while before I pick it up.