The Restless Dead, by Simon Beckett, is the fifth book in the author’s David Hunter series of crime thrillers. Dr Hunter is a forensic anthropologist working as a consultant to police forces throughout England. His is a specialist field and the details of how he studies human remains to ascertain how they lived and how they may have died are fascinating.
Set in the backwaters of Essex this instalment sees Hunter called to a remote and run down coastal town where two people have been reported missing and one body has been discovered floating to the surface in the tidal wetlands. A wealthy businessman and local landowner believes it is the remains of his son and is pressurising the police to confirm his suspicions. He has powerful contacts who make life difficult for those who do not bend to his will.
Hunter is asked to assist with the recovery of the bloated body. The cold and wet procedure takes its toll on his compromised health. When Hunter’s car is damaged he ends up requiring temporary accommodation and becomes caught up in a local feud. There are unforeseen links to missing persons.
This is a small community and grudges have festered. Hunter is aware that he must not compromise the police investigation, especially as his reputation is already fragile following a previous case. He cannot, however, resist the charms of Rachel, a beautiful young woman whose family owns the holiday let in which he stays.
The plot has many twists and turns as families are introduced and old hurts revealed. The writing is assured and competent although in places I would have preferred it to be a little less clichéd. A love interest seems such a predictable device to enable the protagonist to gain access to family history. I pondered why all key women must be regarded as conventionally attractive; a little diversity would be so refreshing.
Having said that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Many chapters ended with a little teaser that demanded one more be read. I had not guessed the key elements of the denouement and they were neatly presented. Here I had the thought provoking issues I relish.
An entertaining and engaging read that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the genre. The action would transfer well to a screen.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bantam Press.
This post is a stop on The Restless Dead Blog Tour. Do check out the other posts, detailed below.