Friday, October 12

The Chemistry of Death - Simon Beckett

Dr David Hunter retreated to the country to escape from the tragic deaths of his wife and young daughter, joining the practice of established GP Henry Maitland, himself injured in the car accident that took his beloved wife. Now confined to a wheelchair, Henry is unable to attend to patients at home, and is of an age to begin considering retiring.
A year on, and David feels as though he's becoming part of the Manham community. But the discovery of the badly decomposed body of another newcomer, author Sally Palmer, begins to attract serious police and media attention. David knew her, though he shied away when she began to express an interest in him. When another woman goes missing and the police pick David up - because of his background as a forensic anthropologist - he discovers that he was never part of the town at all. And then a third woman disappears...
This is a riveting blend of psychological exploration - David as much as the killer - and mystery, with enough forensic detail to be interesting without the supersaturation that's become de rigeur in these novels of late. There is quite a bit of 'had I but known', which Beckett somehow manages to keep from being irritating, and the discovery of the perpetrator's genuinely unexpected. There's an epilogue that I found less surprising, but which rounded the novel out nicely. All in all a quite satisfying work. - Alex

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