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Thriller Thursday – Written in Bone

Written in Bone by Simon Beckett

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)


Let me start with a warning:  if you get squeamish, the following book, Written in Bone, may not be for you.  But…if you like murder mysteries, if you like brooding, atmospheric settings, if you like sitting on the edge of your seat and reading until midnight…you are going to love this book too!

Dr. David Hunter is a forensic anthropologist; he identifies human remains at crime scenes that are so decomposed, they would be impossible to identify without his expertise.  He was introduced in Beckett’s first novel, The Chemistry of Death, which is also a wonderful read.  But in this second book, Dr. Hunter is just finishing up an investigation and is ready to go home to London and his significant other Jenny, when he receives a phone call.  An overwhelmed detective who is dealing with a train wreck that may have been deliberate, calls David and asks for a favor: would he fly to the island of Runa, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, and check out a body?  All David has to do is try and determine if the death was accidental or deliberate.  It should only take a day, maybe two.

David reluctantly agrees; he knows Jenny will be disappointed about his delayed return home, but he feels he should help out. They need to have a serious talk about their crumbling relationship, but it can wait another two days.

When he finally arrives at the scene on the island, he finds the remains of a human body, almost completely reduced to ash…with the exception of the feet and one hand.  It’s not much to go on, but David is the best forensic anthropologist in the UK.  Before long, he makes the discovery that the young woman was indeed murdered; what he has is not an accidental death, but a murder investigation.  He contacts the mainland to tell the police they need to send crime scene investigators out immediately.  However, the weather just isn’t going to cooperate.  A violent storm hits the island, and everyone must wait for the police to show up…when they can.

In the meantime, we get to know some of the local residents along with David.  There is an entire cast of characters here on the island; and when the young policeman Duncan McKinney, who was left at the scene to watch over things, turns up dead as well–it becomes apparent that the killer is one of the local residents. Someone everyone knows, but who has moved among them all keeping some very dark secrets.  And as the weather worsens, and suspicions and fear run high, and the police are further delayed…yet another body turns up.  How many people will die before the storm breaks?

I admit, I have read a lot of books in my life. I can safely say that Written in Bone has the most excellent twist at the end.  I read that last chapter and thought, “WOW.”  But then, I read the epilogue!!  I have to say that I have never read a book with such a shocking ending…. EVER.  It left me speechless.  I read the epilogue twice, as a matter of fact.  Talk about surprise endings.  Never in a million years did I see this one coming.  Simon Beckett takes you on a suspenseful roller coaster of a ride; and just when you think you’ve pulled safely into the station…you’re off again!

There is a good bit of forensic detail in this novel and some readers may find it too graphic; now, for me, it’s fine. After all, some of you may remember me saying that I have a degree in just this subject.  I seriously thought about doing graduate work in forensics.  The author does a great job of explaining how one goes about identifying human remains, and based on my background, I loved it…but, if that isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to pick something else to read.  But if you want a book to keep you on the edge of your seat…try Written in Bone, by Simon Beckett.





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