Dancing with the Virgins

by Stephen Booth

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Featured image for Dancing with the Virgins

I’ve put off reading this book for ages because (nonsensically) I was expecting to enjoy it a lot and also worried that it wouldn’t be as good as I hoped despite numerous reports that if anything it was better than Black Dog. One of the offputting things about the book is its 500 odd pages. I don’t mind a long read at all, it’s more that I’ve read several long mysteries with filler than plot and I didn’t want to be disappointed in this one.

This is a book that is well worth its length though. Booth takes what could have been a basic plot driven story and fills it with in depth characters that deserve the attention that they receive. He also does a wonderful job with the setting though this might be helped by the fact that I now know the Peak District myself and am getting to know it better all the time.

One of the things that makes this book really good for me is that despite finding that I don’t really like either of Booth’s lead characters I enjoy finding out about them and I want to know what happens to them in the future. Local boy Ben Cooper is trying to live up to his father’s reputation in the police force and still lives on the family farm run by his brother. Incomer Diane Fry has just beaten Cooper to a promotion and is viewed with deep suspicion by most of the local coppers, in trying to keep her personal life separate from her working life she comes over as a very cold person. Both characters are completely believable though and the fact that I want to knock their heads together is a testament to Booth’s realistic storytelling.

The plot is solid and contains less predictable elements that the first book in the series, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next in Cooper and Fry’s world.

Oh, and I also wanted to add that Booth gets bonus marks for not falling into the trap that so many other authors seem to of calling men by their surnames and women by their first names. If anything his main characters are Ben and Fry. I got really fed up with Barry Maitland for referring to “Kathy and Brock” all the time and it’s a habit that’s been annoying me ever since and it’s nice to see someone writing in reverse for a change.