Beckett, Simon - 'Written in Bone'
WRITTEN IN BONE is the second in a series of serial killer mysteries featuring David Hunter, forensic anthropologist. After a routine job in Scotland, Dr Hunter is intrigued by a police request that he investigate a mysterious death by fire on an isolated Hebridean island, Runa. A burnt corpse has been reduced to bone, save for the feet and one hand, in a shack completely untouched by the fire. Due to a major incident on the mainland, there are no scene of crime officers available as the death appears ostensibly to be unsuspicious. Dr Hunter agrees to investigate and travels out to Runa, together with an irascible police sergeant Fraser, and his eagerly studious constable, Duncan.
Runa is inhabited by a small community, whose main livelihood is from the sea, assisted by a seasonal influx of tourists, and is beginning to thrive under the influence and deep pockets of South African millionaire, Strachan, who has settled with his wife on the island. As storms lash the island, and the death count rises, the telephone and radio links go down, completely isolating the island and leaving Hunter at the forefront of the investigation, aided by Fraser, Duncan, and Brody, who is a retired policeman, a former chief inspector, resident on the island. The island's inhabitants are understandably at turns infuriated and terrified by the outbreak of violence perpetrated by one of their own, and at times are hostile to Hunter and the police as tensions increase.
Simon Beckett ably combines numerous twists and turns in the plotting with intelligent and sensitive writing and characterisation. He conveys atmospheric descriptions of the island and clear and compellingly gruesome explanations of the forensic science. The only weakness in this novel is that certain of Dr Hunter's deductive processes, and the motivations of the villain, are not entirely convincing. Otherwise this remains an entertaining and insightful page turning read, in the vein of Kathy Reichs, full of suspense up to and including the final cliff-hanger.
Laura Root, England