2017 Blog Tours Book Reviews Simon Beckett Transworld
Blog Tour: The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett - Review and Extract
Today I'm kicking off the Blog Tour for Simon Beckett's latest Story, The Restless Dead. This is the fifth novel of the forensic anthropologist Dr David Hunter Series. And I'm sharing my review and also an extract for you to read:
Title: The Restless Dead
Author: Simon Beckett
Published: April 6th 2016 by Transworld
Blurb: It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter's help with the recovery and identification...
Because they would like it to be that of Leo Villiers, the 31 year-old son of a prominent local family who went missing weeks ago, and they are under pressure to close the case. Villiers was supposed to have been having an affair with a married woman, Emma Derby. She too is missing, and the belief is that the young man disposed of his lover, and then killed himself. If only it was so straightforward.
But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. Then further remains are found - and suddenly these remote wetlands are giving up yet more grisly secrets. As Hunter is slowly but surely drawn into a toxic mire of family secrets and resentments, local lies and deception, he finds himself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to escape even though he knows that the real threat comes from the living, not the dead.
With its eerie and claustrophobic sense of place, explosive heart-in-mouth moments, and viscerally authentic forensics and police procedural detail, coupled with David Hunter’s own uncanny ability to understand the living as much as the dead, The Restless Dead stands as a masterclass in crime fiction and marks the stunning return of one of the genre’s best.
Review: When I first picked this book, I did not know that this was the fifth book around the character of Dr David Hunter, a forensic anthropologist and police consultant, but I soon realised that this character had quite a background story that was mentioned during this story. This being said, I had all the information I needed to follow the story with no problem at all and after a few chapters I was completely immersed in this story and its characters. So it's fair to say that this story works perfectly well as a standalone and it definitely leaves you wanting to more about this character.
In this book, Dr David Hunter is not facing the brightest future, with his university job hanging by a thread and with his name as a consultant on a black list with the police. So when he gets a call from DI Lundy to join them for a body recovery from the murky Blackwaters of the Saltmere Estuary, he is hoping to clear his reputation. Soon though what seemed quite a straight forward case of suicide turns out to be a case full of secrets, deceits and with several members of this close-knit community involved.
While reading this book, I instantly took a liking of Dr David Hunter, he is definitely more comfortable with the dead than the living and he usually finds himself in awkward situations without even trying. But his deduction skills were as good as any detective and he was a key part in the resolution of this case, maybe because he got a bit too close to the family of the missing woman linked to the body they found. The members of this family were a bit more difficult to figure out and with every new information I was more and more surprised and curious about them.
The star of the story though was probably the setting. The estuary created an extremely tense and eerie atmosphere and you never knew what was waiting around the corner. It's a fact that the story was full of unexpected twists and surprises that kept me glued to its pages for hours. I could have never guessed who was behind everything and I think the author resolved it in a really clever way. I'm already looking forward to the next Dr David Hunter story, he has definitely gained a new fan.
Rating: 4 stars
Composed of over sixty per cent water, a human body isn’t naturally buoyant. It will float only for as long as there is air in its lungs, before gradually sinking to the bottom. If the water is very cold or deep, it will remain there, undergoing a slow, dark dissolution that can take years.
But if the water is warm enough for bacteria to feed and multiply, then it will continue to decompose. Gases will build up in the intestines, increasing the body’s buoyancy until it floats again.
And the dead will literally rise.
Suspended face down, limbs trailing below, the body will drift on or just under the water’s surface. Over time, in a morbid reversal of its formation in the womb’s amniotic darkness, it will eventually come apart. The extremities first: fingers, hands and feet. Then arms and legs, and finally the head, all falling away until only the torso is left. When the last of the decompositional gases have seeped out, the torso too will slowly sink a second, and final, time.
But water can also cause another transformation to take place. As the soft tissues decompose, the layer of subcutaneous fat begins to break down, encasing a once living human body in a thick, greasy layer. Known as adipocere, or ‘grave-wax’ to give it its more colourful title, this pallid substance also goes by a less macabre name.
Cocooned in its dirty white shroud, the internal organs are preserved as the body floats on its last, solitary journey.
Unless chance brings it once more into the light of day.
The skull was a young female’s, the gender hinted at by its more gracile structure. The frontal bone was high and smooth, lacking any bulge of eyebrow ridges, while the small bump of the mastoid process beneath the opening of the ear looked too delicate for a male. Not that such things were definitive, but taken together they left me in little doubt. The adult teeth had all broken through by the time of death, which indicated she was older than twelve, though not by much. Although two molars and an upper incisor were missing, probably dislodged post-mortem, the remaining teeth were hardly worn. It confirmed the story told by the rest of her skeleton, that she’d died before reaching her late teens.
The cause of death was all too obvious. At the back of the skull, a jagged hole about an inch long and half that wide sat almost dead centre of the occipital bone. There was no sign of healing and the edges of the wound were splintered, suggesting the bone was living when the injury occurred. That wouldn’t have been the case if the damage had been inflicted after death, when the bone dries out and becomes brittle. The first time I’d picked up the skull I’d been surprised to hear an almost musical rattle from inside. At first I’d thought it must be bone fragments, forced into the brain cavity by whatever object had killed the young victim. But it sounded too large and solid for that. The X-ray confirmed what I’d guessed: loose inside the girl’s skull was a slender, symmetrical shape.
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