From Las Vegas to inside wounded souls

Crime Fiction

October 08, 2006|By Sarah Weinman | Sarah Weinman,Special to the Sun

Stripped

Brian Freeman

The Chemistry of Death

Simon Beckett

Delacorte / 313 pages / $22

Freelance journalist Beckett was short-listed for the Crime Writers' Association Best Novel award earlier this year for this book, and for good reason: It's a thoroughly satisfying thriller that incorporates forensic detail and character motivation with a likeable protagonist who is welcome to make return appearances. David Hunter used to be one of Britain's foremost forensic anthropologists, an expert in the many ways humans die. But the loss of his wife and daughter in a car accident spurred him to walk away and settle for the life of a general practitioner in the sleepy town of Manham. Too bad his life is brutally disrupted when the desiccated corpse of a woman is found in the woods, and another goes missing. On the face of it The Chemistry of Death sounds all too familiar, what with suspicious townsfolk, a crusading minister and a budding romance placed in jeopardy all in evidence. But to his credit, Beckett infuses Hunter with a strong work ethic to offset his acquired pathos, and the denouement is equal parts surprising and scary - keeping readers just off balance to turn the pages at a rapid clip.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction every month for The Sun. Visit her at www.sarahweinman.com.

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