Written in Bone by Simon Beckett


Written in Bone is the second instalment in a series featuring forensic anthropologist Dr David Hunter. This time the action takes place in the remote island of Runa in the Outer Hebrides, off the northwest cost of Scotland. DS Graham Wallace at Northern Force Headquarters in Inverness has received a report of a fire death in that secluded spot. But, due to a train crash that seems to have been deliberate, he does not want to pull resources away from a major incident unless absolutely necessary. Therefore he asked Dr Hunter to go there together with a couple of local boys from Stornoway to take a look and, if anything suggest it might not be accidental, wait until a SOC team gets there.

The body was found by Andrew Brody, a retired DI, at an abandoned croft. It is almost totally incinerated except for the feet and a single hand. Being almost dark on arrival, Dr Hunter can only offer his instinct as an explanation for a suspicious death as he doesn’t want to risk contaminating the scene. But there is no way to get a team for something that may end up being an accidental death. The next morning Dr Hunter finds out that the body had been hit hard on the back of its skull by a blunt object and there is no doubt now that this was no accident. Too late, an Atlantic storm descends, severing all power and contact with the mainland. Dr Hunter team is left at its own. As the storm rages, the killing begins in earnest…

It doesn’t seem to me necessary to read this series in order. There is enough information to fully appreciate this book on its own. Besides Simon Beckett is a powerful storyteller and Written in Bone has captured my attention from the outset. It is superb the way in which the action unfolds. How the reader is gradually introduced to a closed atmosphere and to the mysteries that surrounds a small community. The plot grabs the attention of the reader and the characters are nicely drawn. But to be honest the ending does not met my expectations. I don’t want to disclose too much but, for my taste, there are some excesses that threaten the credibility of the novel. But all in all it was worthwhile. I look forward to read the rest of the series in the near future.

Simon Beckett is for some reason, better known on the continent than in the UK. The Chemistry of Death (2006), the first in the Dr David Hunter series, was shortlisted for the 2006 Gold Dagger award and it was followed by Written in Bone (2007) and Whispers of the Dead (2009).  His fourth novel The Calling of the Grave is due in February 2011. Dr David Hunter was inspired by a visit and series of articles made by Beckett to ‘The Body Farm’ in Tennessee (otherwise known as the Forensic Anthropology Centre, U. Tennessee, founded by the pioneer of modern forensic anthropology, Dr Bill Bass). Beckett is married and currently lives in Sheffield.

This is my book number 5, for the British Typically Reading Challenge 2010.

Simon Beckett official website

Random House Group Company

Random House Inc.

Written in Bones has been reviewed by Maxine at Euro Crime, Laura Root at Euro Crime, Terry Halligan at Euro Crime.

Simon Beckett

Written in Bone (2007)

Bantam Books, 2008

Number of pages: 496

ISBN: 978-0-553-81750-8

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6 thoughts on “Written in Bone by Simon Beckett

  1. >José Ignacio – Thanks for this excellent review. I'm glad that, overall, you enjoyed this book, even if the ending wasn't as credible for you. You know, I had the same reaction when I read it, although I still recommend it when people ask if I liked it. I agree, too, that it's not vital to read the books in order. However, I strongly advise folks to read this one before reading the next book, Whispers of the Dead. There are several spoilers in Whispers of the Dead.

  2. >I have not quite made up my mind if I´m going to participate in the Irish Reading Challenge or not so I will keep my Becket novels on the TBR – just in case.

  3. >Margot, Naomi, Dorte, thanks for your comments.Dorte I'm afraid it won't qualify for the Irish Challenge since the author is British and the setting is on The Outer Hebrides in Scotland.

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