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The chemistry of death

Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 2006.
Physical Description:
vi, 313 pages ; 24 cm.
Series title(s):
Number in series:
bk. 1
A former high-profile forensic anthropologist keeps his past a secret while hiding himself in an isolated English village, until he is asked by the police to use his arcane skills to help track down the killer of a young woman, whose murder becomes only the first in a series of twisted mutilation killings.
Geographic Term:



Call Number

On Order



Three years ago, David Hunter moved to rural Norfolk to escape his life in London, his gritty work in forensics, and a tragedy that nearly destroyed him. Working as a simple country doctor, seeing his lost wife and daughter only in his dreams, David struggles to remain uninvolved when the corpse of a woman is found in the woods, a macabre sign from her killer decorating her body. In one horrifying instant, the quiet summer countryside that had been David's refuge has turned malevolent--and suddenly there is no place to hide.

The village of Manham is tight-knit, far from the beaten path. As a newcomer, Dr. Hunter is immediately a suspect. Once an expert in analyzing human remains, he reluctantly joins the police investigation--and when another woman disappears, it soon becomes personal. Because this time she is someone David knows, someone who has managed to penetrate the icy barrier around his heart. With a killer's bizarre and twisted methods screaming out to him, with a brooding countryside beset with suspicion, David can feel the darkness gathering around him. For as the clock ticks down on a young woman's life, David must follow a macabre trail of clues--all the way to its final, horrifying conclusion.

Author Notes

Simon Beckett is a freelance journalist and the author of The Chemistry of Death . He is married and lives in England, where he is at work on his next thriller featuring Dr. David Hunter.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

British author Beckett (Fine Lines) delivers a promising serial-killer whodunit, the first of a new crime series. Dr. David Hunter, a successful forensic anthropologist, retreats to the quiet Norfolk village of Manham, where he works as a general practitioner, after a drunk driver claims the lives of his wife and daughter. Three years after this tragedy, the shattering discovery of the mutilated corpse of a neighbor, Sally Palmer, forces Hunter back into the world of studying decomposing corpses. When another woman disappears, Hunter and the police conclude that a serial predator is at work, and they race against time to prevent a second murder. High quality prose and a compelling if flawed hero haunted by the memory of his family help compensate for a plot that starts strongly but winds down to a somewhat predictable resolution. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

With so many women forensic specialists on the mystery circuit, it's a pleasure to have a man join the ranks--even if he is a reluctant draftee. Endeavoring to escape a tragedy that took his wife and young daughter, David Hunter leaves forensics behind to take a job in a rural medical practice in a tightly knit English village. Although still an outsider even after three years on the job, David has begun to make a friends; he has even met a woman he likes. Suddenly, the village is turned on its ear; one of its own is a serial killer, and David, at first a suspect, is enlisted to apply his medical specialty to find the killer. When his girlfriend is kidnapped, he can no longer pretend detachment, and his involvement leads to unraveling some terrifying, surprising secrets about people he thought he knew. Let's hope Hunter returns quickly and Beckett continues to find such a nice balance between forensic detail and thrilling action. --Stephanie Zvirin Copyright 2006 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunter moves to a rural British village, hoping to escape his tragic past. Unfortunately, the young widower finds his life in turmoil again when a serial killer begins to prey on local women. Upon learning of Hunter's criminal investigation expertise, the local police make it abundantly clear that he must assist. As young females continue to be kidnapped, turning up dead in disturbing poses, the villagers' recognition that one of their own is responsible for the ritualistic slayings magnifies the horror. (What is one to make of a serial killer who inserts swan wings into a victim's torso?) Old secrets are revealed, and suspicions rise along with the sweltering summer heat. Once Hunter and the police figure out the killer's pattern, their desperate race against time makes this thriller nearly impossible to set aside. The gory crimes in all their detail will entice CSI, Patricia Cornwell, and Kathy Reichs fans, but it's the subtle psychological nuances that make this debut really shine. Highly recommended. Teresa L. Jacobsen, Solano Cty. Lib., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.