Sunday, 3 March 2019

Books Read: The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett

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 the body of a young woman. And that she was pregnant.

But the collapse of the loft floor reveals another of the hospital’s secrets. A sealed-off chamber, still with beds 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 more surprises, one thing is certain.

St Jude’s hasn’t claimed its last victim . . .

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I'd like to thank Hayley at Transworld for sending me a proof copy of The Scent of Death to review.

Over the years I have read a variety of crime fiction books featuring all aspects of investigations but not many from a forensic point of view so when I was contacted to see whether I'd like a review copy of The Scent of Death I decided to jump straight in even though this is the sixth book of a series.

Our main protagonist is Dr David Hunter, a forensic anthropologist, who has been called in to assist with the identification of a mummified body found in an abandoned hospital.  Initially it wasn't known why he wasn't the first choice as we later discover but as the story progressed we are drip fed enough background information to put some of the pieces together.  His background story really intrigued me so I definitely want to try and find the time to go back and read the earlier books in the series to know what exactly had happened to him in the past to make him the man he is today. 

One of the aspects that particularly intrigued me was the type of work that someone of David Hunter's calibre does.  I've not really put much thought into it before but as much evidence as is found at the crime scene, it's the body itself that quite often tells its own story.  The author has clearly done a lot of research over the years and cleverly weaves enough forensic detail to explore the type of work that someone like Hunter would do but at the same time doesn't overdo it so that it feels like you're reading a medical text book.  It must be hard to balance and decide how much information is too much? 

I'm a firm fan of a good setting as much as the characters involved in a story, and what better setting than an old abandoned hospital.  I had so many questions going through my head as I was reading and wanted to know its story and how it came to be left in its current state.  Who had walked those deserted corridors in the past?  Each ward, theatre and consulting room could probably tell enough stories to fill multiple books.

But most of all of course I wanted to know what had happened to the victims that had met such a grisly end in the building.  What had happened to them and who had left them neglected to rot hoping for them never to be discovered? 

Like many crime fiction readers I like to try and figure out what is going on in a story, sometimes I'm spot on and other times I'm way off the mark, so for me as I was reading The Scent of Death I was trying to pick up any clues that had been skillfully woven in by the author.  And in this instance the final twist was fairly obvious, but maybe that was the plan all along, either way I really enjoyed my first introduction to Dr David Hunter and definitely plan to read more in this series in the future.

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