The Scent of Death
18th April, 2019
Publisher: Bantam Press
About Simon Beckett:
Joint winner of the European Crime Fiction Star Award 2018/19, novelist Simon Beckett has also worked as a freelance journalist for national newspapers and magazines. With over 10 million books sold worldwide, and a multiple no 1 bestseller in Germany, Simon Beckett continues to draw in audiences in their millions. The first in the series and a million-copy best seller, The Chemistry of Death, was shortlisted for the UK’s premier crime-writing awards and the 2006 Gold Dagger Award. Simon Beckett has also written five psychological standalone thrillers. His internationally bestselling standalone novels include Stone Bruises and Where There’s Smoke. The David Hunter novels are in development for television with Cuba Pictures and Nadcon.
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 he receives 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 are those 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 reveals many other dark secrets. 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.
I almost missed Ward’s lunchtime press statement. The young woman’s cleaned bones didn’t yield any surprises as I rinsed them off and put them to dry, but I couldn’t let go of what Messa had said. When the last of them were in the fume cupboard, I pulled up the photographs taken at the crime scene and during the post-mortem. Even though I knew I would have seen any burns already, I checked the photographs again for any evidence of charring on the young woman’s body I might have missed. Pale skin darkens during decomposition, while dark skin lightens, making it impossible to use skin colour as an indicator of ancestry. Even allowing for that and the drying effects of mummification, severe burns such as Mears had described finding on the interred victims would still be visible. I couldn’t rule out the possibility that she’d been burned on parts of her body destroyed by maggot activity – a suppurating burn on her abdomen would have been a target for flies to lay their eggs and wouldn’t have left bloodstains on the clothing, which might explain the gaping abdominopelvic cavity.
The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett is a wonderfully-written, slow burning crime thriller. With all of the best elements of a police procedural, written from the perspective of a forensic expert, this book gives details and real life facts, making it more intriguing and realistic. I would recommend to anybody who enjoys proper police procedural fiction, or Simon Beckett’s previous work. This is part of a bigger series but can be enjoyed as a standalone easily. Thank you Hayley from Bantam Press for my advance copy in exchange for the blog tour!