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I got this book as I enjoyed reading Beckett's first book, 'The Chemistry of Death.'
Written in Bone is an excellent 2nd book, which has some good twists in it, just like his first book.
Again we meet Dr Hunter, now a forensic anthropologist who goes to a remote Scottish island as a body has been found. He works with a drunk police officer, a new and young police officer and a retired DI who found the body. It turns out to be a burnt body in an isolated cottage leading them to first think it's a homeless man who got too close to the fire. However it's not long before Dr Hunter has more than one body to deal with...
To top this they end up cut off from the mainland because of a terrible storm, which might sound very cliche, however Beckett describes so well you just want to get warm.
Beckett soon starts wishing he'd gone home to his girlfriend Jenny instead as soon he escapes from meeting his own death on more than one occasion!
As the book goes along you get to know the island's locals along with Dr Hunter, and so you begin to form ideas of just who the killer could be, but then find yourself changing your mind again in the next chapter.
The ending was quite unexpected, but probably not as shocking if you've read his 1st book. The last 3 pages which give a preview to his next book have certainly made me look forward to it!
There is a reason why so many of the main protagonists in crime fiction are police officers or private investigators. It's because it makes sense for these people to be in and around a murder investigation or other crime. If your friend went missing who would you call? I am guessing one of the above groups rather than a teacher/librarian/old woman/butcher etc. Crow barring a character into a mystery is never an easy thing; it's why people never invite Jessica Fletcher around. How are you supposed to know that a little old crime writer happens also to be an angel of death? Despite this difficulty, authors continue to try and mix things up so that their books are fresh and different. Simon Beckett's protagonist is a forensic anthropologist, someone who investigates dead bodies found at possible crime scenes. They may be involved in crime solving, but only in a hands off role - so does Dr David Hunter's second mystery still work - or will people stop inviting him around for tea too?
Dr David Hunter is back in Simon Beckett's second crime novel. This time forensic anthropologist Hunter has been sent to the remote Scottish island of Runa to discover whether a body found there is suspicious. On finding the corpse almost completely destroyed by fire Hunter decides that there is a strong case for murder. Unfortunately, a storm has hit and all communication to the mainland is down meaning that the murderer is stuck on the island. With a potentially dangerous criminal trapped, Hunter must use all his investigative skills, with the aid of a retired police officer, to stop events before things escalate beyond control.
I was very impressed with Beckett's debut 'The Chemistry of Death' as it was such a fluid and well written crime novel. The one area that I was a little troubled by was the fact that it read like so many other mystery books. In fact I was inclined to describe it as the best generic crime thriller written for a long time. I was willing to give Beckett the benefit of the doubt with his first book as he already proved himself a good writer. Unfortunately, the biggest issue with 'Written in Bone' is exactly the same, as the book is so cliché. The minute that Dr Hunter sets foot on the remote Scottish island I just knew that at some point communication to the mainland would be lost and I was proved right not far in. These elements of overly used plot techniques mean that the reader is sometimes brought out of what is otherwise an excellently written crime thriller.
However, if you go into 'Written' thinking it is a good generic crime fiction then you are in for a treat. Firstly, the character of Dr Hunter is a great one. He comes across as an everyman who finds himself in situations alien to him, but he does his best to solve crimes. Once again he is haunted by the death of his family, but with a new partner at home we begin to see that he is starting to heal. The best element of Hunter is that he interacts so well with the rest of the cast. As an easy going Doctor he is free of the suspicions people have for the police and often discovers more just through innocent chats. This lends the book a slightly more studious appeal, one that works well.
Beckett is also very good at leading the reader on so that their suspicions are aroused over several characters rather than just one. This means that as a whodunit 'Written' succeeds as you never guess until the very end. This is not to say that Beckett does not give you the chance, he drops subtle clues on occasion that the astute reader may pick up.
A final area that Beckett excels in is the description of crime scenes. There is a danger when reading a book starring someone in forensics that the author will go into too much scientific detail that proves dull to most people. I feel this is the case in some of Kathy Reich's books, but not here. Beckett always surrounds Hunter with people who do not have his level of expertise. This means that the Doctor explains the situation in a clear manner for the benefit of the other character and the reader.
Therefore, 'Written in Bone' proves to be another accomplished crime thriller by starting author Simon Beckett. With a sympathetic main character, several viable suspects and a gripping closed story there is a lot for crime fans to enjoy here. However, if you read lots and lots of crimes books then there may be a few elements of this book that you have seen one to many times. Beckett has to think of some more original ideas of how he can get Dr Hunter involved in solving a crime, but apart from this the book was another winner.
Author: Simon Beckett
Price: amazon uk - £8.57
play.com - £9.99
Following on from the end of the last novel that saw Dr.David Hunter returning to his chosen profession of forensic anthropologist almost reluctantly, we start this new novel from acclaimed writer Simon Beckett as his protagonist prepares to return from the wilds of Scotland and a paticulary nasty murder scene to which he has been lending his very specialised expertise. His relationship with the woman he met and fell in love with in the previous novel is a little stressed. She tires of him jet-setting off to lend his assisstance and longs for him to remain closer at home but David has opened Pandora's Box and now he has returned to that he meant to leave behind, he finds it increasingly more difficult to refuse.
Thus when a Police Superintendant asks him to travel that little bit further before he returns home to investigate the remains of a suspicious death on an island in the Hebrides, Hunter, after some persuasion, agrees... after all it will only be for a couple of days won't it?
The death seems to suggest a vicious murder but resources are temporarily tied up somewhere else and for a while Hunter is left holding the baby as it were with a drunkard mainland Police Detective, a retired police officer and a rookie who longs to be a criminologist. Then a storm arrives cutting them all off from the mainland and suddenly the death toll begins to rise with horrifying escalation.
With its insular community and it's suspicious locals, this follow-up novel at times feels a bit too much like a rehash of his first novel and isn't quite as compelling as his debut. That said it is still a bloody good read and once the pace picks up it soon grips you by the ballls and won't let go. If Chemistry Of Death was a tribute to Miss Marple, this second novel is a homage to Ten Little Indians and soon begins snowballing into something dark, disturbing and definetly a little dangerous.
My only regret is that this time around the culprit did seem a little obvious even if the motive and circumstances surronding the murder spree were less clear untill explained- certainly this time around there are no easy answers and even when you think its all wrapped up Beckett still manages to surprise us with a couple of bolts from the blue that aren't anything you were expecting.
This is a guy who knows how to write an ending and if the climax doesn't leave you reeling I will be very surprised. One thing that did annoy me, and this is more to do with the publishers than the author, is the insistence on the front cover once again that "if this book isn't as good as Patrica Cornwell we'll give you your money back!!"
We have sen this with Kathy Reichs, as you will know from an earlier review, and now we're seeing it again. Why publishers cannot let an author stand on their own merits instead of comparing the two I will never know- it is no more than a clever gimmick and not one that is needed!! Indeed, as I have said before, Cornwell is no longer even one of the big hitters with her latest works paling in comparison to the much superior Kathy Reichs and the equally as thrilling Karin Slaughter!!
Thankfully Beckett's latest work is not a disappointment and, after a slightly slow and shaky start, settles into its own and delivers near-perfectly once more. Almost despite myself at times, I found myself enjoying this and once agaiun finding it very compelling reading.
Whether or not there will be a third book in this series is impossible to say but if he continues to write as well as this then Beckett will have a justly deserved successfull career!!
'I took the skull from its evidence bag and gently set it on the stainless steel table. 'Tell me who you are...' Forensic anthropologist Dr David Hunter should be at home in London with the woman he loves. Instead, as a favour to a beleaguered colleague, he's on the remote Hebridean island of Runa to inspect a grisly discovery. Hunter has witnessed death in many guises, but even he is shocked by what he finds: a body almost totally incinerated but for the feet and a single hand. Could it be a textbook case of spontaneous human combustion?The local police are certain it's an accidental death but Hunter is not convinced. Examining the scorched remains, he finds the evidence he feared. It's clear to him that this was no accident, this was murder. But as the small, isolated community considers the enormity of Hunter's findings, a catastrophic storm hits the island. The power goes down, communication with the mainland ceases, and then the killing begins in earnest...Exploding in a series of violent acts and shocking twists, this is the compelling new crime thriller from a brilliant British storyteller.