The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publishing Date: 18th April 2019
Series: David Hunter #6
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 368
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Thriller, Mystery
Forensic expert Dr David Hunter is enjoying an easy-going summer, pleased with both his stable, happy relationship and renewed status as a police consultant who is very much in demand. Even the threat of Grace Strachan – the woman who tried to murder Hunter after breaking into his flat – has been placed in the past.
But Hunter’s peace is disturbed once again when hereceives a call from an old associate, DCI Sharon Ward. A partially mummified corpse has been discovered at St Jude’s Hospital in North London. Awaiting demolition, the empty hospital’s only visitors arethose left behind by society – outcasts, addicts and dealers. Hunter’s forensic expertise concludes the body is of a pregnant young woman. But for how long she has been left is unknown.
‘When a floor of the hospital collapses, it revealsmany other darksecrets. A sealed-off chamber is discovered with beds still inside and some of them occupied. As the investigation unfolds, one thing is certain: St Jude’s hasn’t claimed its last victim.What starts as a straightforward case twists to become a nightmare that threatens Hunter and everyone around him.
An empty St. Jude hospital is to be demolished but then a mummified body is found in its loft. Dr David Hunter is called to examine the remains. He can immediately ascertain that the corpse has spent longer time in the hospital. During the examination of the body, David’s colleague, Dr. Conrad, falls through the rotten ceiling and through this fall another room is discovered, with two more bodies. Here begins the investigation that is going to bring more surprises.
I honestly haven’t supposed that I’m going to enjoy this book so much – can I say “enjoy” about a book full of gory details, mummified corpses and descriptions of bones and what flies can do to a dead body? It sounds a bit extreme, yes, but still this word perfectly describes my feelings to this novel. I liked the fact that despite many medicinal details it was easy to follow, and that it was extremely fast paced story. There were many twists and turns but it all sat together perfectly and fitted together.
The story is told from David Hunter’s point of view and quickly I was immersed in his life and what was happening in it – and there was a lot happening, that’s for sure. Although, to be honest, it was probably more of this what was happening than David himself – I mean, his life and his job were much more exciting than David himself. He was not easily ruffled and he controlled himself butt he was perfectly likeable and realistic – as well as the other characters. They were all very well developed and I couldn’t help but feel invested in their lives as well. They felt authentic and Dr Hunter felt human and genuine.
The book was written in – despite the really heavy topic – such a light way that I immediately felt a part of it. The writing style was incredibly descriptive and the author didn’t leave much to the imagination but in that case it works wonders – those descriptions have made the book so thrilling and exciting to read, they details were so well described that you could easily see them in your head, and I absolutely enjoyed the descriptions of David’s job as a forensic anthropologist. Yes, sometimes I did have a feeling that I am on the crash course for the amateur forensics but everything happened at a good pace and it kept me gripped, and let’s be honest, all the details were truly fascinating, no? And I think we should appreciate the fact that the author has managed to bring closer to us the highly complicated details in such accessible and interesting way.
It was a real page – turner and while the final twist was not a surprise for me, the book kept me hooked. It was chilling and captivating and the author has well and easily captured the dark, chilled and tense atmosphere. Also the setting was chosen perfectly, the old hospital a place full of dark secrets and you could never be sure what more they’re going to find there – actually, I was hoping there won’t be anything more to find to be honest, I think I wasn’t ready for another body. I liked how complex and complicated the story was, and how slowly, piece after piece, all the puzzle elements were beginning to be right for each other and the whole picture started to emerge. Yes, it took a lot of time until we really get into the heart of the case but thanks to the writing style those were truly amusing pages.
Although it is already book number 6 in the series it can perfectly well be read as a stand – alone. There is enough retrospection to let us, the first readers, to understand that something happened in the past that has consequences in the present, so that this subplot was understandable and also clear why it was there in this story. “The Scent of Death” was altogether a very multi – layered and complex, intelligent read, mixing well developed characters, mystery and tension. The storyline was meticulously planned and it took time for all the elements to fell into place, it was not at all rushed or pushed forward, the author let the events happen at their own pace. Yes, I was hooked and yes, I am for sure going to read other books in this series. Recommended!
The research behind The Scent of Death
Working as a freelance journalist in 2002, Simon Beckett visited the Body Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee for an article about crime scene training for US police officers. At the time, the research facility was the only place in the world to use human cadavers to investigate the process of human decomposition. Using real human bodies, the site aimed to give police officers the most visceral experience of what working with the dead was like. Both harrowed and marvelled by the experience, Simon was left feeling there was more than just a feature article in it.
Alongside the development of the tortured character of David Hunter,Simon began to write The Chemistry of Death, informed by his experience at Body Far in Knoxville.The novel went on to become translated into 29 languages and thus began the infamous Dr Hunter series. While Beckett’s experiences in journalism have contributed to the authenticity of his novels, Beckett also frequently speaks to both UK and US based forensic anthropologists to inform any forensic ambiguity he may have.
While authenticity is essential for Beckett,character and psychological motivations are also hugely important factors to his writing process.Beckett is a huge fan of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books.Their flawed and complex characters were instrumental in contributing to the development of Dr David Hunter, rather than opting for the stereotypical heavy-drinking, maverick tough-guy as his main character.
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