It was, above all, a human landscape , settled and shaped by people, and still a place where thousands of years of history might be expected to come to the surface, if you cared to look.
– Black Dog, Stephen Booth (Cooper and Fry #1)
The Cooper and Fry series are thrillers set in the Peak District. Yes, murder and intrigue right next door to me – how could I resist? The Peak District is one of my favourite places in England, and its somewhere I have actually been and actually kind of know, so I knew I had to read these books.
Thankfully, they exceeded my expectations.
The main characters are Ben Cooper and Diane Fry – Ben being the local lad, and Diane being the newcomer from the city (in book one.) Ben is instantly likeable- he’s a very interesting character with a cheerful, approachable front hiding very dark thoughts and insecurities. At first, I hated Diane fry and this made it difficult to get through the first book. She was so judgemental, so selfish and close minded. I was horrified at some of the things she thought appropriate to say out loud. I didn’t like, nor get, how she could have formed such negative, extreme views of the countryside.
Then again, I may have been feeling defence because of my love for the Peak District.
Anyway, I grew to sympathise with Diane fry once her background is revealed even if I still didn’t like her. It also helped that I love the dynamic between Cooper and Fry- Cooper softens Fry, whilst she likewise toughens him. They challenge each other, and their dialogue is delightful. And I just love how the tough, ambitious Fry falls so obviously and so fast for Cooper, way before he even thinks of her as a friend. Cooper is attractive and intrigues her, and its amusing how often she thinks of him, as if its totally natural. Cooper thinks Fry has beaten him in everything, without realising there is one way he has Fry utterly defeated. I felt for Cooper and the way Fry challenged his position in the force, but by book two I could see he needed that. Again, Fry toughened him- made him question and challenge himself. They have such an interesting dynamic that swings from dislike and annoyance to grudging respect and attraction.
The writing is delightful. At first I wasn’t sure about how often the point of view changes, but the author manages to build up strong characterisation even so. The crimes are intriguing, with no clear answers. The writing is clever, with a dry sense of humour, a bit dark too, that often had me laughing out loud. I loved how I don’t know- playful? Teasing? The writing is. The writer has a great way of leading your thoughts in one direction with regards to what’s happening, only to reveal the situation or meaning is something else entirely. It could be so annoying- but its done so cleverly, and the answer always revealed quickly without dragging it out that it made me grin every time. Also it has to be said that the books have a strong sense of place. I actually thought Edendale was a real place! And I love the focus on life in the country, and this also adds an interesting element to the crimes – what do the police do to handle crimes in open, mostly remote areas with temperamental weather? It’s fascinating.
These books are so very enjoyable. I ploughed through the first three books in a matter of days.
The one downside to these books is that they are an unfinished series- I don’t want the series to become tired or plodding. Already by book three I felt myself becoming impatient, looking for a conclusion that wasn’t there. The books all stand well on their own in regards to the cases but the strands of the personal lives of Copper and Fry, and the teasing hints of potential romance, is something that is always open ended. I don’t like this.