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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth




It isn't the easiest way to commit suicide. Marie Tennent seems simply to have curled into a fetal position in the freezing snow out on Irontongue Hill and remained there until her body was frozen over. There's no one to observe her death but the foxes and the hares. Her body has bruises, though. Her death is tragic. Is it also suspicious?
Marie's is not the only death the police have to investigate. What about the baby's body that is discovered in the burned-out hulk of a World War II bomber? And the unidentified man who is crushed by a snowplow?

Snow and ice have left E Division depleted, and Detective Sergeant Diane Fry needs all the help she can get. But her colleague, Detective Constable Ben Cooper, is following a cold trail of his own. In the winter of 1945, a Royal Air Force bomber crashed on the same Irontongue Hill where Marie Tennent's body was found, killing everyone except pilot Danny McTeague, who disappeared with a large sum of money. Now his granddaughter, Alison Morrissey, has arrived from across the Atlantic to clear his name.
As Fry and Cooper pursue their respective cases, they must also struggle to work together. Where there once was attraction, there now is distrust -- and perhaps something more. Work comes first...but life can intervene in strange ways.
 
The strength of this novel is in its characters: the pensive Ben, adjusting to moving out of his family's home; brusque, businesslike Diane, who seems not to feel at home anywhere; the Poles who fought for England in WWII and their descendants; and the numerous, perfectly sketched supporting characters who provide a sense of real community. There is apparently some sort of history between Ben and Diane - she is inexplicably annoyed by almost everything he does; he is very ambivalent about revealing himself to her - but its nature is never made clear. The vividly portrayed wintry landscape almost becomes a character as well. If you have read Stephen Booth's previous books, you will probably be pleased to spend time in familiar surroundings with old friends. If not, you will find an introduction to a world worth returning to.
 
The depth of the look into the personalities of the two protagonists - which of course play a major role in how they go about their investigations - is insightful and penetrating, and they are always given intriguing mysteries to solve their insecurities. These are always well-plotted and read well, and the book is recommended.