An eternal cloud seems to have been hanging over the Peak District village of Edendale even before Harry Dickinson reports finding the Reebok trainer of 15-year-old Laura Vernon. Harry himself, a retired miner, is such a louring old man that only his granddaughter, Helen Milner, can get through to him, and that not any too reliably. Laura’s parents, Graham and Charlotte Vernon, have been locked for years in a loveless marriage whose main amusements seem to be recriminations and affairs of the flesh. Lee Sherratt, the Vernons’ studly gardener, has gone missing after getting the sack from Laura’s apoplectic father. Ben Cooper, the local CID classmate of Helen’s, is torn by anxiety over his schizophrenic mother and the chances of his promotion to sergeant. And Diane Fry, the new recruit from Birmingham teamed with Ben on the case, has secrets of her own too ugly to bear remembering. All too soon, Harry, breathing resistance from every pore, leads the police back to the spot where they find the Reebok’s late owner, and a deeper blackness settles in over the landscape, as debut novelist Booth lets both the suspects and the suspecters stew in their juices for round after round of drinking, questioning, abortive romance, conscientious cutting away from emotional high-points (an effect that produces more irritation than suspense), and sordid but unsurprising revelations—including the identity of the killer, which readers unclouded by Ben’s depression will dope out long before he does.
Just the ticket for rainy-day reading. You don’t even have to supply your own rain.