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The Devil's Edge
by Stephen Booth

Release Date: 7th Apr 2011
Publisher: Little Brown
ISBN: 978 1 8474 4480 6
RRP: £17.99

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There's no such thing as "safe as houses"...

Against the naturally imposing backdrop of solid rock shelves, The Devil’s Edge digs behind the veneer of the affluence of the middle class residents of Riddings and exposes a social truism that money does not make people civilised.

Rural Derbyshire hardly sounds like a hotbed of violent crime, but with the emergence of lottery winners and the lure of country living, rural communities are no longer the refuge they once were – and none more so than Riddings. Newly promoted, DS Cooper is aware of a gang responsible for a recent spate of violent burglaries, nicknamed by the media as “The Savages”; so when a similar crime scene is discovered in Riddings, everyone assumes the connection. Cooper, however, isn’t convinced. For a start, the scale of violence has jumped from a beating to homicide and then there is the issue of only a phone and wallet being taken. When a neighbouring home is broken into, Cooper’s instincts tell him these two incidents were not carried out by the same perpetrators, with the case garnering massive media attention, the pressure is on to start arresting suspects and Cooper guesses that feelings alone aren’t enough to sway the direction of the investigation.

Meanwhile, DS Diane Fry is skulking around after being politely asked to leave the tedious workshop she had been banished to. A male colleague got fanciful ideas and ended up injuring himself when he fell onto the bonnet of his car. Either way, Fry is unhappy to be back at E Division and within sight of DS Cooper – and matters only get dicier when she is called on to act as liaison on a case of farmer-shoots-would-be-burglar-in-the-back. That the farmer concerned is DS Cooper’s brother is enough to re-establish the tension between them.

Booth reduces the idyllic village of Riddings to a dark, distrusting nest of adders; and each resident seemingly having the capacity, motive and opportunity to kill each other. The omnipresent overhang known as Devil’s Edge that casts its shadow over the neighbourhood effects a foreboding atmosphere; with the ever encroaching wildness of nature being futilely kept at bay by onerously landscaped gardens. You sense humanity’s desire to be perceived as civilised; whereas, in reality, we all submit to our primitive instincts: murder being one of them.

The Devil’s Edge reminds me of classic Agatha Christie; all pretence, misrepresentations and craftily places presumptions. In the end, you think you know the villain from the saint; but you’d be wrong. And that’s the hook that keeps you going right to the very end.

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