The Scent Of Death by Simon Beckett Bantam Press April 18th
It’s been a good summer for forensics expert Dr David Hunter. His relationship is going well and he’s in demand again as a police consultant. Life is good.
Then a call comes from an old associate: a body has been found, and she’d like Hunter to take a look.
The empty shell of St Jude’s Hospital now stands awaiting demolition, its only visitors society’s outcasts, addicts and dealers. A partially mummified corpse has been discovered in the hospital’s cavernous loft, but not even Hunter can say how long it’s been there. All he knows for sure is that it’s a young woman. And that she was pregnant.
Then the collapse of the loft floor reveals another of the hospital’s secrets. A sealed-off chamber, with beds still inside. Some of them occupied…
For Hunter, what began as a straightforward case is about to become a twisted nightmare that threatens everyone around him. And as the investigation springs yet more surprises, only one thing is certain.
St Jude’s hasn’t claimed its last victim…
You know when you are late to a party or join a conversation halfway through and wonder what you have missed, well that is how I felt about Simon Beckett’s The Scent Of Death. How could I have been so late to this wonderful series, and have waited so long to meet forensic anthropologist Dr David Hunter? There was obviously some back story that I didn’t know but that really did not matter as The Scent Of Death can be read as a standalone.
Dr David Hunter was a serious soul, not surprising for someone who had lost his wife and daughter nor his choice of career. Above all else Hunter and his job were absolutely fascinating and Beckett dazzled me with his wonderful descriptions of the varying stages of a dead bodies decomposition, the techniques used to piece that person back together and discover how they died. I felt like I was there in the mortuary with Hunter and wasn’t quite sure I would have had the patience required to carry out such painstaking work.
If the dead bodies were fascinating then so to was the novels setting. The imposing, dilapidated building that was St Jude’s Hospital emitted scenes that were full of darkness, an aroma of damp and decay rose from the pages. I too felt myself lost in its unwinding, endless corridors, inhaling the dust, smelling the deadly aroma of death.
You wanted Beckett to hurry up and unearth the hospital’s secrets, but instead he took his time, filling background, slowly building the many layers of the story. I was enthralled by his wonderful set of characters, from the investigating police officers to the eerie and combative figure of Lola and her son.
Beckett brilliantly built the tension until boom, the pace went so fast that you weren’t quite sure what had hit you. The varying strands came together, connections were made and you could sense the lightness emerging until he gave us one final surprise that you never saw as it crept up on you and pounced!
For me, The Scent Of Death was crime writing at its best, it had an intelligence that is so often lacking from the many novels that litter the genre. The narrative bristled with wonderful descriptions that triggered the imagination, its characters were based in reality, personable and in some cases chilling, never one dimensional. It was a novel that that I loved and admired and I shall be revisiting the world of Dr David Hunter very soon.
I would like to thank Transworld for a copy of The Scent Of Death to read and review and to Hayley Barnes for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author