Book: Black Dog (Stephen Booth)

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Black Dog: A Crime Novel

Author: Stephen Booth
Publisher: Pocket

It’s a long, hot summer in Northern England’s Peak District, where police helicopters darken blue skies and drown out the sound of birdsong. Fifteen-year-old Laura Vernon, smart, sexy, and the keeper of many secrets, is missing. Possibly she has run off to London. Possibly she’s dead. The police search, the wealthy parents wait by the phone. Detective Constable Ben Cooper quietly dreads the worst.

When retired miner Harry Dickinson and his black Labrador find the body lying in the woods, Harry’s strangely obstinate refusal to cooperate with the investigation raises more than a few eyebrows.

What about the parents? Graham Vernon is a man who knows all about secrets. What are he and his glamorous wife holding back?

Ben Cooper, who lives with a personal tragedy and who has known the villagers all his life, finds himself uneasily teamed with an ambitious newcomer, Detective Constable Diane Fry, who has her own secrets. As Ben and Diane begin a complicated dance of suspicion, attraction, and frustration, they discover that to understand the present, they must also understand the past. Loyalty, betrayal, friendship, family—what do they mean, and what happens when loyalties clash?

In the tradition of Reginald Hill, Minette Walters, Barbara Vine, and Peter Robinson, this richly textured, evocative, stylish novel marks the auspicious debut of a major crime-writing talent.


Stephen Booth’s first novel Black Dog is an impressive portrait of two sorts of policing. Ben is a local man who knows everybody and perhap scares too much, while Diane is a stranger wherever she goes and is perhaps too cold-blooded; when they find themselves rivals for promotion, and colleagues on a difficult case, breaking strain is going to be reached sooner or later. Spoiled, young Laura Vernon is missing, soon to be found dead, and the question soon arises: is she only, or even, the first? Retired quarryman Harry found the body and perhaps knows more than he is letting on, but he will do anything rather than tell the police more than he has to. The Vernons’ gardener is missing, a thuggish young man rather too fond of showing off his muscles—what does he know? What went on at the Vernons’ smart cocktail parties and what do Harry and his friends talk about over their beer in the pub? This is an ingenious dark little mystery in which there may be solutions to problems, but no cures; Ben and Diane are two of the more interestingly flawed young cops of recent crime fiction.—Roz Kaveney

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