Englischsprachige Literatur

Beckett Simon

The Chemistry of Death

Bantam Books Random House, London 2006


Imagine the light bulb with flies from the cover, mutilated cadavers hanging from the ceiling of a deserted underground air-raid shelter, a horrid smell and a naked young girl bound and tortured by a brutal insane criminal - and you have the gist of this debut thriller. Everything else in the story is built around this central scene.

And Beckett knows his job. It took him a long time to write the book, and some more to find a publisher for it, but he invented a convincing, if flawed hero in David Hunter, a former forensic pathologist, who tells the story in the first person. He is now working as a GP in Manham, a small village in Norfolk. Three years ago he had fled there from London, when his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash. And now the mutilated body of a young woman is found in the forest.

Hunter very reluctantly agrees to assist the police. Beckett slowly builds up suspense, at the end of each chapter portents tell the reader to expect the worst, which, of course, happens. Like in Kleistīs famous story “Das Bettelweib von Locarno” Beckett intensifies his description of  the victimīs ordeal with the second murder, and then Hunterīs girlfriend Jenny is kidnapped and the reader is right there in this shelter with her and her torturer. Here Beckett abandons the first person narrative, but turns back to it when helpless Hunter comes into view again. Naturally, in the end, itīs not the police who find Jenny half-dead in a diabetic coma, but Hunter. It all becomes really nasty and, for this reader here, rather disgusting, but it is a thriller, isnīt it?

On Beckettīs homepage we can read an interview with the author, in which he lists his literary models and a visit to the Body Farm in Tennessee, that gave him the idea for his hero.. He conveniently forgets to mention Patricia Cornwell as his closest literary ancestor.