Written in Bone – Simon Beckett.
About four years ago, I decided to try several new authors to broaden my library. These included: Simon Beckett, Cody McFadyen, Stuart Macbride, Michael Robotham and Nick Stone. All these authors had one thing in common. I enjoyed their first books so much I went out and bought the next in the series. For some reason I have never revisited any of them. Until now:
'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.
I picked Simon Beckett to start with as the premise sounded great. I can still recall most of the “Chemistry of Death” which four years later is very rare. Dr. Ash was a good character, moralistic and driven.
In “Written in Bone,” he is still all of those things but this time he is more driven by doing his job than worrying about getting home to his girlfriend. He does not have to accept the last minute request to travel to the remote island of Rune but his interest in the mysterious death outweighs the need to see his partner.
What he finds on Rune is a closed off community. Some residents are friendly, some are mysterious but all are possible suspects. He is assisted by two police officers, Frasier (a miserable and insecure drunk) and Duncan (the inexperienced but eager rookie).
Dr Ash is a good solid protagonist. He is reasonable, polite but also knows what he wants. It is the perfect character to move around the island and allow the other characters to demonstrate all their nuances and idiosyncrasies.
I love a good mystery. I particularly love a good mystery set in a closed environment where the killer has to be someone amongst the people we meet. The great thing about “Written in Bone,” is that most of the characters are normal. They might not be worldly, but they behave in a respectable manner. It makes you suspicious of everyone, filtering through their personalities, considering them and dismissing them one by one. You hope it is not the obvious one and pray it is not a random character.
Strachan the millionaire man obsessed with injecting cash into the island is a great character as is Maggie the intrepid, cunning reporter. Then there is Brodie, the retired detective who becomes part of the investigation by default. He is perhaps the best character in the book, driving events forward and having the most sensible suggestions.
Simon Beckett does a great job of introducing the tension slowly. The routine investigation is intriguing enough but slowly the incidents become more frequent until you don’t know who to trust. Despite the wide open spaces on the island, there is a great sense of claustrophobia as the weather batters the island breaking all communications with the outside world.
The conclusion is great. There are more twists and turns then a gymnastics routine. When the eventual killer is revealed, I can’t say I didn’t suspect them but that was more to do with the fact that I suspected everyone at some point. What I will say is that you will not be disappointed with the ending as everything cleverly falls into place.
Written in Bone reminded me exactly why I loved Simon Kernick’s first book.
My rating: 9.0