Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth
HarperCollins, 10.99, trade paperback, ISBN 0-00-71364-3, 2002.

Once again several horrendous crimes occur in the Peak district, and
Sergeant Diane Fry and Constable Ben Cooper must try to solve them in
addition to dealing with their own emotional problems and issues. The
first violence occurs when a group of men attack two drug dealers with
baseball bats. While we might be sympathetic, vigilantism cannot be
encouraged. Then during a heavy snow storm the snow plow uncovers the
dead body of a man at Snake Pass.

A Canadian woman, Alison Morrisey, arrives hoping to discover what
really happened to her grandfather who had piloted a Liberator bomber
during World War II that went down on Irontongue Hill. There were only
two known survivors, the pilot and Zygmant Lukacz, a Pole, who still
lives in town with his family. Finally a woman freezes to death not far
from the wreckage of the bomber during the same snow storm that produced
the unidentified body. All these strands twist and turn upon one another
and finally come together in a superb solution that leaves the reader
completely satisfied.

The main character almost seems to be the environment. The land is
rugged and it is difficult to scratch out a living here. The men are
used to taking the law into their own hands and often have disdain for
the police. The heavy snowfall and the cold just intensify the
surroundings and make life that much more difficult for everyone. The
world seems gray and dark and the cold pierces to the bone.

Characters are suitably rugged also and very well drawn. We meet people
of all walks of life who have had to make do with very little and
somehow have managed to survive. They all are authentic and believable
and so carefully delineated that there is no problem at all keeping them
separate. Especially interesting, perhaps, is the Polish family who,
with the other Polish immigrants, create an enclave within the British
community where they can retain their culture, their customs, and their
language. Yet the younger generation is losing the values and beliefs
that their parents brought from Poland.

Of course Diane Fry and Ben Cooper are at the center of the novel.
Sparks dart between them and Fry, the superior officer, is often
frustrated and angry with Cooper. A native of this area, he is laid-back
and comfortable about this unsettling world. Fry, on the other hand, is
frequently uncomfortable in it and alone besides. They are very
dissimilar and yet, somehow, they are always linked.

The book is very well-written and enjoyable to read. The prose will not
pull the reader out of the story and the descriptions of place are so
well done it is possible to see it in one's mind. Once immersed in this
book, it is hard even to come up for air.

One of the intriguing designs in the story is the fact that we cannot
escape the past. It influences the present (and the future) no matter
how hard we try to escape. We cannot just brush it off or ignore it.
That plane crash and the subsequent events led to tragedy, unhappiness,
and fear as certainly as if the events were deliberate. It is well that
we remember that the past is always with us.

This is an excellent story, well set in place, with atmosphere,
characters, and a complex and intriguing plot. I highly recommend it.

Sally Fellows,
Reviewer for Mystery News

Read a review of Blood on the Tongue by Oline Cogdill of the Florida Sun-Sentinel


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