Review: Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth

Title: Blood on the Tongue (the 3rd Ben Cooper and Diane Fry book)

Author: Stephen Booth

Publisher: Harper Collins [2002]

ISBN: 0-00-713066-X

No. of Pages: 632

A Canadian woman asks the police of England’s Peak District for assistance into the investigation of the war-time crash of an air craft in the area. Her grandfather had been the pilot but had disappeared from the accident site and never been seen in the 57 years years since the night of the crash. Of the remaining crew only one person, a Polish man, survived and is still in the area today. The police hierarchy refuses to assist the Canadian because they’re busy. A man’s body has been cut in half by a snow plough, another man’s been beaten up and, although they don’t know it yet, a young woman has died in the snow too. However DC Ben Cooper is intrigued by the Canadian’s quest and, almost against his own will, becomes involved in investigating the story. His boss, DS Diane Fry, is angry at him about that.

As I mentioned the other day, this book dragged for me. Seriously dragged. Every person’s clothes, every building, every location seemed to be described in minute, unnecessary detail. It soon became impossible to tell which people and events were crucial to the story because every body and every thing was given the same detailed introduction. And then there were the tangents. For example at one point a character notices a police car has the force’s website address written on it which is followed by a long description of what one would find on the website. None of which is even remotely relevant to the story. Alone this example wouldn’t bother me but it is one of dozens of such tangents that detracted from the flow of the narrative and turned what should have been an interesting story into a directionless amble. At one point Police realise that the woman who died in the snow probably had a baby but they don’t seem to put much effort into locating the child, or at least no more than they do for anything else, which seems highly improbable to me.

I don’t think this is an issue of length or pace. I have loved longer books and slower ones. This is an issue of storytelling where knowing what to leave out is as important, if not more so, as what is included. For me anyway story telling is about being taken on a journey and here I felt as if I’d been dropped in the middle of a forest and had to find my own way out without the benefit of a compass or the ability to leave a breadcrumb trail. I found my way out in the end but I’d taken so many wrong turns I’d lost interest in the outcome.

I did like Ben Cooper who is a far cry from the alcohol-addled, ex-wife trailing cop so prevalent in crime fiction. His introspection and somewhat naive outlook were refreshing and the way he and his experiences were used to explore themes of family and community was first rate. There appeared to be some kind of unresolved issue between him and Diane Fry but I really couldn’t work out whether it was professional or personal (it seemed to be both at different times). Perhaps this is explained more in the first two books in this series which I haven’t read. Regardless, I neither liked Fry nor found her particularly credible but I really can’t explain why.

I really wanted to like Blood on the Tongue as Booth’s books have been recommended by many people whose tastes I trust. Although I did enjoy meeting Ben Cooper I didn’t enjoy it enough to make me come back for more so this series is one I’ll just have to agree to disagree about.

My rating 2/5

Other stuff

Other readers enjoy the pacing of this book so don’t rely on my voice alone. Paul at Reviewing the Evidence loved it.

According to Fantastic Fiction there are now 9 books in this series with the most recent having been released in April this year.

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3 Responses to Review: Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth

  1. Dorte H says:

    I have already ´admitted´that I liked the book. Yet I agree with you now that I see the weaknesses writ down. But I am quite aware that part of what I like is the environment and the characters so it doesn´t bother me too much when things move slowly. Besides, I have read the first volumes of the series, and I like following Ben Cooper. I could also do without Diane Fry, however.


  2. Maxine says:

    I think I wrote in a comment to your earlier post that I got bored with this series on about no.4. Perhaps it was before that as I don’t remember this plot, though I know I have read several of the books (I began them with the first, when it was first published, and enjoyed that one).
    Unlike Dorte, I quite liked Fry. I like books about “unlikeable” women characters. However, I think both she and Ben are too “angsty” about themselves, and part of the problem for me in these books is that you never know what they really do think of each other, and nothing seems to go anywhere in their relationship. (I haven’t read the last two or three Dalgleishes, but this was true of him, also).
    As you say, Bernadette, the plots seem to be quite padded so, added together, I found it hard to maintain my interest. I did like the local setting, though, so perhaps will come back to the series one day.


  3. bernadetteinoz says:

    That’s the word Maxne…’angsty’. And it annoyed me more with Fry, I couldn’t work out why she was being mean to Cooper because of all this unsaid stuff. I’d have thought within 632 pages he wouldn’t have needed to leave anything unsaid 🙂


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