Scared to Live [NOOK Book]

Overview

How do you investigate the murder of a woman without a life? That is the challenge facing Cooper and Fry when a reclusive agoraphobic is found shot to death in her home. With no friends, no family, and virtually no contact with the outside world, the dead woman may simply have been the unlucky victim of a random homicide.

At virtually the same time, a raging house fire claims the lives of a young mother and two of her children. But as the debris is cleared, troubling questions ...

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Scared to Live

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Overview

How do you investigate the murder of a woman without a life? That is the challenge facing Cooper and Fry when a reclusive agoraphobic is found shot to death in her home. With no friends, no family, and virtually no contact with the outside world, the dead woman may simply have been the unlucky victim of a random homicide.

At virtually the same time, a raging house fire claims the lives of a young mother and two of her children. But as the debris is cleared, troubling questions remain in the ashes—among them, how did the blaze start, where was the husband at two a.m. the night of the fire, and was it really the flames that killed his family?

Now, as Cooper faces the reemergence of a dark secret he'd hoped to forget, and Fry copes with problems both personal and professional, a horrific possibility begins to take shape: What if the two investigations are somehow connected? A mysterious and unpredictable killer is on the loose. And his next victims could very well be the only two cops who can stop him.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Two gruesome homicides preoccupy Det. Sgt. Diane Fry and Det. Constable Ben Cooper in Booth's ambitious seventh police procedural (after The Dead Place ). In England's Peak district, Fry looks into a suspicious house fire that killed Lindsay Mullen and two of her young children, while her husband, Brian, escaped with minor injuries. Meanwhile, Cooper investigates the death of Rose Shepherd, a reclusive woman killed by an apparent sniper-shot through her bedroom window. Both cases yield few clues, and Fry and Cooper run into one dead-end after another. While the link that they eventually uncover between the murders of Shepherd and the Mullens and a notorious Bulgarian gang stretches credulity, Booth compensates with his energetic pace and memorable characters. Genre fans may find a subplot involving psychotic hallucinations clichéd, but few will be able to predict Booth's twisted conclusion. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"Crime fiction for the thinking man or woman: powerful...poignant...and damnably hard to put down."—January Magazine

"A modern master of rural noir."—Guardian, UK

“Few will be able to predict Booth’s twisted conclusion.”—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062302083
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Series: Cooper & Fry Mysteries, #7
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 100
  • Sales rank: 27,097
  • File size: 742 KB

Meet the Author

Stephen Booth's thirteen novels featuring Cooper and Fry, all to be published in the U.S. by Witness Impulse, have sold over half a million copies around the world.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sunday, 23 October

Even on the night she died, Rose Shepherd couldn't sleep. By the early hours of the morning, her bed was like a battleground—hot, violent, chaotic. Beneath her, the sheet was twisted into painful knots, the pillow hard and unyielding. Lack of sleep made her head ache, and her body had grown stiff with discomfort.

But sleeplessness was familiar to Miss Shepherd. She'd started to think of it as an old friend, because it was always with her. She often spent the hours of darkness waiting for the first bird to sing, watching for the greyness of dawn, when she knew there'd be people moving about in the village. There might be the sound of a van in the street as someone headed off for an early shift at the quarry, or the rumble of a farmer's tractor in the field behind the house. She didn't feel so completely alone then, as she did in the night.

For Rose Shepherd, this was the world. A distant noise, a half-heard voice, a snatched moment of indirect contact. Her life had become so confined that she seemed to be living in a small, dark box. The tiniest crack of light was like a glimpse of God.

By two o'clock, Rose had been out of bed twice already, moving aimlessly around the room to reassure herself that she was still alive and capable of movement. The third time, she got up to fetch herself a glass of water. She stood in the middle of the bedroom while she drank it, allowing her toes to curl deep into the sheepskin rug, clutching at the comfort of its softness, an undemanding gentleness that almost made her weep.

As always, her mind had been running over the events of the day. There was no way she could stop it. It was as if she had a video player in her head, but it was stuck in a loop, showing the same scenes over and over again. If they weren't from the day just past, then they were snapshots from previous days—some of them years before, in a different part of her life. The scenes played themselves out, and paused to allow her to fret whether she could have done things differently. Then they began over again, taunting her with the fact that past events were unalterable. What was done, was done.

It was one of the reasons she couldn't sleep, of course. Her brain was too active, her memories too vivid. Nothing seemed to slow down the thoughts that stalked backwards and forwards in her consciousness, like feral animals roaming the edge of the forest, restless and apprehensive.

But Rose was glad that she'd been out the previous day. She'd been doubtful about it beforehand. No journey was without its risks, even if it was only three miles over the hill and down into the village of Matlock Bath. Despite a diversion to the shopping village, she'd arrived in the village too early, and had time to kill once she'd parked the Volvo.

Standing in her bedroom, Rose smiled at the recollection of her own weakness. Matlock Bath had been busy, as she ought to have known it would be. At first, she'd been disturbed by the number of people on North Parade, and nervous of the motorcyclists in their leathers, clustered by their bikes eating fish and chips out of paper wrappings. When she passed too close to them, the smell had been so overpowering that she thought she would faint. And that would never do.

She turned slowly on the rug, fighting the muzziness and disorientation of being awake when her body wanted to sleep. There were only two points of light in her bedroom—the face of her alarm clock, showing two thirty–three, and the echo of its green luminescence in the mirror on the opposite wall. She found it difficult to focus on the light, because she couldn't judge its distance from the reflection.

She could smell those fish and chips, even now. The odour was so powerful that for a moment she had no idea where she was. Time and place began to blur, a street in a Derbyshire tourist village merging into an image of a deserted roadside with the smell of gunfire in the air, then whirling back to her bedroom, with those two green points of light rushing towards her out of the darkness. Feeling giddy, Rose steadied herself with a hand on the wall and sat down in a chair by the window.

No, no, she was wrong. It was a bad mistake she'd made yesterday. The sort of mistake she'd taught herself to avoid, that she had made such careful plans against. But she hadn't been able to avoid it. There was no other way out.

Rose breathed deeply, trying to control the dizziness. For a moment, it had been just as if those motorcyclists had entered her bedroom. She could hear the creak of their black leathers, the thud of their heavy boots against the doorframe. There was the rustle of their paper wrappings, the acrid tang of the vinegar. Somewhere, perhaps, the rumble of an engine, coming closer.

The bikers had been irrelevant, though. Waiting in Matlock Bath, Rose's first impressions had been the steepness of the hills above her, the denseness of the trees, the roofs of houses perched among them in apparently impossible places. Soon a sense of her vulnerability had become too strong, and she had to get off the street, to find somewhere she could feel safer.

So Rose had paid her money to enter the aquarium, and for a while she'd watched children feeding carp in the thermal pool. Even now she could remember feeling the shape of the item she carried in its plastic bag, and knowing she was making a fool of herself in the most dangerous way. But perhaps no one had noticed her nervousness, because people were too wrapped up in their own interests.

She thought about taking some more of her herbal tablets. But that would mean walking as far as the bathroom for a glass of water, and it wouldn't make any difference anyway. Not now.

Her doctor knew about her anxiety and insomnia problems. She'd gone to him out of desperation, breaking her own rules and knowing it was a mistake. But he hadn't been able to help her. For a start, he'd never understood why she wouldn't continue taking the sleeping pills he gave her. Rose had felt quite sorry for him when she saw his perplexed frown, his fingers hovering over the keyboard to tap out an automatic prescription for Nitrazepam. In the end, she'd told him the pills gave her heartburn, and he'd accepted that as a reason.

Of course, he was a rural GP, and he hadn't met anyone like Rose Shepherd before. He didn't understand that she wasn't just another neurotic, middle–aged woman. He couldn't possibly have known that she was even more frightened of never waking up than of not being able to sleep.

Rose had always known she'd be killed. Well, it felt like always. She could barely remember a time before she'd known. She expected to meet her death because of the way she'd led her life. It was a question of when it would happen, and how. All she could hope for was that it would be sudden, and painless.

Two forty–five. The house was very quiet, wasn't it? Even her bedside clock had a tick so faint that she had to listen hard to be sure it was working. There was an Edwardian longcase in the sitting room downstairs, but it would be another fifteen minutes before it was due to strike. Its chimes had counted away many of her nights.

In some ways, knowing her fate only made things worse. It meant that she lived every day in fear of a phone call, a knock on the door, the smashing of glass in the middle of the night. Every time she went out of the house, she expected not to return. Whenever she looked through the window, she was surprised not to see dark figures in the garden, watching her house. For a long time now, she'd considered it more difficult to live than to die.

She tried to imagine what the neighbours would say about her when they were asked. No doubt they'd all agree that Rose Shepherd was a very private person, who never called round to say "hello" and didn't mix much in the village. They knew she'd lived alone for the past ten months at Bain House in Foxlow, deep among the Derbyshire Dales. Some would put her age at nearly seventy; others would frown and say she could only be in her fifties, surely? But they hadn't really got a close look at her. The postman might recall she had an accent that wasn't local, but she'd never spoken more than a few words to him.

And that was pretty much all anyone would know of her. The details of her life were shrouded by trees and protected by electronic gates. And that was the way it had to be. It was what had kept her alive until now.

Rose smoothed out her sheets, turned over her pillows, and went back to bed. Ten minutes later, she was hovering fearfully on the edge of consciousness when a black Mitsubishi Shogun with tinted windows drove into Foxlow and stopped outside her gate.

Leaving through the back door of a cottage on the corner of Pinfold Lane, Darren Turnbull saw the black car as it drew away from Bain House. He stepped back into the shadows, wishing that Stella wouldn't insist on having that security light. He had to walk right through its glare to reach the lane by the church, and it didn't do much for his anonymity. In this place, he felt sure that some nosey neighbour would see him and find out all about him before he got his car keys out of his pocket. Stella sometimes talked about him leaving her house like a thief in the night. With that bloody security light, he was more like an actor stepping out on to a stage. He prayed there was no audience tonight.

Darren watched the vehicle coming back towards him from the corner. He was slightly puzzled by its speed. There was no other traffic anywhere on the road at this time, and most drivers would whizz through a place like Foxlow in seconds. But maybe this was some old fogey who thought you had to obey speed limits, even when there was no one around.

He wasn't as good at recognizing makes of car as some of his mates were, but Darren could see this was some kind of four-wheel-drive job. A big one, probably Japanese. He liked black cars—there were too many grey and silver models around these days, and they all looked the same. Tinted windows, too. That was cool. He could barely distinguish the outline of a driver as the car passed under a streetlamp near the phone box.

Finally, the car had gone, and Darren began to move again, keeping close to the wall of the cottage to avoid the light as he made his way to the back gate. His blue Astra was parked under the trees on Church Walk. No streetlamps here, not even any houses where he could be overlooked. There was just the old church somewhere in the darkness. If he looked up, and through the trees, he could see the top of its square tower against the sky, with its little stone ramparts like broken teeth.

Darren shuddered when he thought about the church and its graveyard. He'd been scared silly of these places when he was a kid, and even now he preferred to stay away from them. They made him think of bats and vampires, and dead people coming up out of their graves. He'd rather not even go to funerals, if he could avoid it. All those folks dressed in black with their long faces gave him the creeps. He always tried to make an excuse that he was too busy working, and then he'd go along for the sausage rolls afterwards, if he could get away with it.

Why Stella had decided to move here when she got divorced, he had no idea. It wouldn't suit him at all—it was too far out in the sticks, miles from anywhere and full of old noseys who wanted to know every detail of your life. The city was a lot better. You could move around there without anyone knowing who you were or where you'd been. But at least he didn't have to live in Foxlow himself.

He grinned to himself as he got into his Astra and reversed it in front of the lych gate. A visit to Stella was always worthwhile, he had to admit. As long as no one found out, of course—especially Fiona. That would be a disaster. She'd murder him for sure.

Darren shivered again as he drove out on to the street. But this time it was nothing to do with his superstitions. The village of Foxlow suddenly felt very cold.

A few minutes later, the Shogun had turned at the top of High Street and was being driven too fast down Butcher's Hill. Its headlights were on full beam, sweeping across the hedgerows, reflecting off gateposts. Anyone coming in the opposite direction would be momentarily blinded, too dazzled to see the vehicle's model or colour, let alone its driver. In a burst of sodium light, it would be gone as soon as it appeared.

When it reached the bottom of the hill, the Shogun slowed to a halt. It idled for a moment in the road, with its front windows half-open and its engine ticking over. Then the driver swung the wheel to the right. He rammed his foot on the accelerator, and the car surged off the road through an open gateway. Its headlights dipped and swayed as it bumped along the field boundary and followed an uncultivated strip of land close to the hedge. With its four-wheel drive engaged, the vehicle growled towards the top corner of the field, where it turned and coasted along the back gardens of the houses in Pinfold Lane.

Finally, the headlights died and the Shogun rolled the last few yards in darkness. After it stopped, there was silence for a moment, then the whirr of a window lowering, the creak of seat leather as a body shifted position, and the slow, careful scrape of metal. With a final click and a grunt, the movement stopped. From a position near the driver's seat came a green glow and a faint electronic beeping.

A hundred yards away, in Rose Shepherd's house, the clock was softly chiming three as the bedside phone began to ring.

Chapter Two

Monday, 24 October

Detective Sergeant Diane Fry pushed at the half-open door and stepped carefully past the tape. In the hallway, she had to squeeze past a child's bike propped against the wall, one wheel off and a spanner on the saddle. She almost tripped over two bulging bin liners full of clothes, ready to go to the charity shop, or maybe the launderette. The smell in the house was overpowering, despite a cold draught blowing through the rooms from the broken windows.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2009

    Intricate Tale

    Booth continues to weave compelling drama from the characters first introduced in Black Dog, Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. The tension and unacknowledged affinity between the two often seems to be at cross purposes to solving crimes. The shooting death, through her bedroom window, of a reclusive newcomer to the Peak District has the police baffled not only to whether such an improbable shot was purposeful but who the victim actually was. While Ben begins investigating, Diane suspects a husband in the fiery death of his wife and their two children. As these disparate death investigations draw us in, Booth gives such life to the players and locations; so much so, that the reader is both eager and reluctant for the stories to interlace and unfold.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fast-paced English police procedural

    In the Peak District, Devonshire Detective Sergeant Diane Fry leads the investigation into a deadly fire. She knows that the majority of these infernos are caused by faulty wiring, but whenever a death like this occurs, CID checks into it. In this case, Lindsay Mullen died in her room apparently confused as to how to escape, and two of her young children Liam and Jack died in their beds while the family patriarch Brian got out with minor burns and smoke inhalation as he was trying to get into the house having not been there when the fire began he is in Edendale General. A third child, an eighteen months old daughter is missing. --- At the same time that Fry wishes Detective Constable Ben Cooper had the case as he understands children better than anyone at the precinct, he investigates the apparent sniper death of cloistered Rose Shepherd in her home during the early hours of the morning. Postman Bernie Wilding had stopped to deliver a package, but she failed to answer. His case is going nowhere as no one saw or heard anything. Unbeknownst to Cooper, a witness fails to come forward as Darren Turnbull was sneaking out of the neighbor¿s house and saw a big black car, probably Japanese stop and take off. Fry¿s inquiries also seem to go nowhere, but soon her investigation and that of Cooper connect. --- Although the link between the Mullen fiery deaths and the Shepherd assassination is a stretch wider than the Atlantic, English police procedural fans will enjoy this fast-paced thriller that rotates investigations until they tie together leading to a fabulous final twist. The cast is strong especially the lead cops and their immediate police support teams. However, it is the cases that grip the audience as suspense mounts while the DS and the DC struggle with difficult investigations in their latest Peak District tale (see THE DEAD PLACE and ONE LAST BREATH). --- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2014

    Mystery lovers take heed.

    I love the entire series of these British police mysteries. They are always entwined with customs and local history that not only thrill but inform magically. The characters are realistic and fascinating but quirky. Not your run of the mill American types.

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  • Posted September 29, 2014

    Excellent Author!

    I am never disappointed with Stephen Booth, along with good mystery, he brings you to England, the farm/country side. The descriptions of country sides, farms, even the weather, I feel like I am there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2014

    Good ending

    This story had a good plot to it. Pages 416

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2014

    Very good; BUT

    Last couple of chapters rushed to reveal possible new bad guys

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  • Posted July 24, 2014

    More twists than a room full of snakes, but twice as deadly.

    Good read, it will have you turning pages. The murderer isn't who you think it is. An unknown hero. And a new love interest for Diane Fry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2014

    I

    I

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    Scanned this at library

    Call it a five page review two pages first chapter and last chapter and one in the middle. The last two will usually give you the murderer dump frye might save the series and dump the detail death throes of the victim.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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