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Whispers of the Dead [Hardcover]

Simon Beckett
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 19 2009
A field of corpses, laid out in a macabre display…A serial killer who confounds even the most seasoned profilers…A doctor whose life has been shattered by crime—plunged into the heart of a shocking investigation… In this masterful new novel by Simon Beckett, #1 internationally bestselling author of Written in Bone and The Chemistry of Death, forensic anthropologist David Hunter is thrust into his first murder investigation on U.S. soil—and his most devastating case yet.

In the heat of a Tennessee summer, Dr. Hunter has come to Knoxville’s legendary “Body Farm”—the infamous field laboratory where law enforcement personnel study real corpses—to escape London and the violence that nearly destroyed his life. He’s also here to find out if he’s still up to the job of sorting through death in all its strange and terrible forms.… Hunter will soon find his answer when he’s called to a crime scene in a remote Smoky Mountain cabin—a scene as grisly as it is bizarre.

The body is taped to a table. Everything about the crime scene—the wounds, the decomposition, the microscopic evidence—quickly short-circuits the tools and methods of forensic experts. Within days, Hunter knows he’s dealing with a serial killer, someone intimately familiar with the intricacies of forensics. All around him, egos and hierarchies clash—from the boasts of a renowned criminal profiler to the dogged work of a young female investigator—but fate keeps pushing Hunter further into the heart of the manhunt. And the killer keeps coming up with surprises: booby-trapping corpses, faking times of death, swapping bodies—finally turning his sights on after Hunter himself.…

An electrifying race against time, a fascinating journey into the world of forensic science, and a terrifying portrait of a killer in love with death itself, Whispers of the Dead is a thriller of the highest order.

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Review

“Beckett ratchets up the suspense ... and keeps the tension taut to the end with a late twist. Whispers of the Dead reinforces the author’s place in the front rank of forensic crime novelists.”—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

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

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! Can't wait for the next novel June 14 2009
Format:Hardcover
Whispers of the Dead is Simon Beckett's third novel featuring forensic pathologist Dr. David Hunter. This book is set in Knoxville, Tennessee and involves what is commonly referred to as 'the body farm'. This is a research facility where cadavers are left to the environment and are studied to understand the effects of decomposition. Dr. Hunter is there as a guest, working with his former mentor, when a mysterious death occurs. Dr. Hunter's mentor is called in by the local law enforcement agency, and he asks Dr. Hunter to assist. From there, the investigation develops and additional dead bodies begin to turn up.

Simon Beckett has quickly become one of my favourite authors. His attention to detail involving the field of forensic anthropology is, to my mind, bang on. He develops characters in such a way that they do not feel one dimensional, but rather take on a life of their own. They literally leap off the page and come to life.

Then there is Dr. David Hunter himself. Flawed. Brilliant. Full of doubts that we all have in one aspect or another of our lives. In short, a well written and developed character.

I enjoyed this book immensely and I look forward so reading the next installment.
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By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Dr David Hunter is still recovering from a near-fatal attack, and has left London temporarily to spend time at the Anthropology Research Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee.

`Most people just called it the Body Farm'.

This is where David Hunter first trained in forensic anthropology, and he hopes that this return trip will restore his shattered confidence and help him find out whether he is still up to the job. Given recent events, he is still bearing emotional and physical scars and he hasn't worked for some months.

When his former mentor, Tom Lieberman, invites him to assist on a murder investigation, he agrees: after all, he'll only be an observer.

But in this case, nothing is at it seems. The victim has been bound and tortured, and the body has decomposed beyond recognition - far more than it should have given the timeframe. There are fingerprints at the scene - but do they really identify the killer? Trying to track down the killer leads to the discovery of another body is found and it soon becomes clear that nothing is straightforward in this investigation. When David Hunter points out some inconsistencies, he discovers that not everyone investigating is happy about his involvement. He is, after all, British not American.

In the meantime, the killer is fascinated by death and what happens at the point of death and is not likely to stop killing. But who is the killer? How many people have they killed, and over what period of time? And how (and who) will stop the killer? When events escalate, the investigators realise that they are searching for a serial killer with a detailed knowledge of forensic pathology.

`Life's too short.
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Format:Hardcover
Author Simon Beckett has certainly found a notch for himself, his mystery thrillers cornering the market on the human body's decomposition as his anthropologist hero David Hunter, as David carries out his brutal and often blood-curdling research into death. We meet David only several months after his near-fatal stabbing. Still reeling from the evil machinations of Grace Strachan, David is looking for away to regain his edge and resolve some hard decisions so accepts an invitation from his old colleague and friend Tom Lieberman to attend the Forensic Anthropology Center in Knoxville, better known by another less formal name as the "Body Farm." The Center is a world-renowned center for research into human cadavers, and David hopes to jumpstart his professional drive. Instead, the young anthropologist finds himself caught up in a series of grizzly killings when a call comes through from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation: they've found a body looks like homicide in a mountain cabin. With an invitation from Tom for David to help him do a little field work, David is thrust back into the thick of things. The body's in bad shape, naked, spread-eagled on its back, arms and legs draped over the table edges, maggots dripping from it the floor "like boiled milk," and the combination of heat and stench is overpowering.

The victims limbs had been pulled down on either side of the table and fastened to the wooden pegs with parcel tape, even David couldn't recall ever seeing so many maggots in a single body before.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes it seemed I was dogged by ill luck and disaster." May 23 2009
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In Simon Beckett's "Whispers of the Dead," the narrator is forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunter, who leaves London for a month-long stay in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is still scarred both physically and emotionally from stab wounds that he received at the hands of a madwoman. Unfortunately, David's life has been marred by a series of tragedies from which he has never fully recovered; he wonders if he still has what it takes to do his job effectively. To find out, he accepts the invitation of his former teacher, Tom Lieberman, who invites him to conduct research at the facility that he directs, the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center, better known as the Body Farm. This is an outdoor laboratory in which scientists examine human cadavers to learn more about decomposition and other factors pertaining to the time and cause of death.

If David had any illusions that this would be a relaxing vacation, he quickly learns otherwise. Not only is Tom clearly suffering from a debilitating heart condition, but David's old mentor is soon called in to assist in a homicide investigation. Tom wants to take advantage of David's expertise, but the law enforcement agents assigned to the case resent the Brit's presence and do whatever they can to exclude him. As the search for a monstrous fiend heats up, David is caught in the middle. To make matters worse, he misses his former girlfriend, Jenny, and is intensely lonely.

"Whispers of the Dead" is sinister and unnerving. There are enough gory scenes to turn the stomach of all but the most hardened reader, but the fascinating forensic details almost make it all worthwhile. Beckett describes the dead bodies, and there are quite a few of them, in such excruciating detail that we can almost smell the rotting flesh and visualize the maggots feeding on the corpses. Although the psychopath is another one of those weirdoes that we encounter time and again in novels of this type, his methods and motive are unique, and the author springs a number of surprises on us as the story progresses. This is an edgy and nightmarish thriller in which Beckett raises the suspense to an almost unbearable level before concluding with an explosive and violent finale. After his traumatic ordeal in Tennessee, Dr. David Hunter would do well to seek treatment from the best therapist in London.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good, pacey thriller Jan. 31 2010
By Helen Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Having read and enjoyed all three of Beckett's 'David Hunter' series, in my opinion this one is the best so far.

A serial killer who is enjoying being one step (or six months!) a head of the crime team.
A character who is trying to escape some haunting memories and needs to test himself by returning to the Tennessee Body Farm he
once trained at.
Some fascinating forensic facts and descriptions on decomposition.
A good plot which is well paced and keeps the tension up throughout.

All in all a very readable thriller.

In addition, at the back of the book there is some background to where Beckett got some of his ideas from along with an account of his meeting with Patricia Wiltshire, one of Britains "foremost forensic ecologists and botanists".
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start at the body farm June 8 2009
By Ruth B. Ingram - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anyone who is knowledgable about forensics knows the body farm and what they study and do there. Dr David Hunter is in Tenneessee visiting with an old friend and doing some research in the body farm. Dr. Hunter is from England and does what Kathy Reichs and Kay Scarpetta do in this country. There is a serial killer about and he taunts and teases law enforcement with the dead he has killed and he has been a busy boy. Law enforcement has no inkling of the dimension of his miss deeds. Dr. Hunter becomes deeply involved and eventually a target for the killer. I suggest you do not start this book unless you have time to read it all at once because it will not let you put it down. This is my fourth Dr. David Hunter book and I am totally captivated. Well written, terse prose, well structured mystery. Enjoy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Skin. The largest human organ, it is also the most overlooked.' May 2 2011
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dr David Hunter is still recovering from a near-fatal attack, and has left London temporarily to spend time at the Anthropology Research Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee.

`Most people just called it the Body Farm'.

This is where David Hunter first trained in forensic anthropology, and he hopes that this return trip will restore his shattered confidence and help him find out whether he is still up to the job. Given recent events, he is still bearing emotional and physical scars and he hasn't worked for some months.

When his former mentor, Tom Lieberman, invites him to assist on a murder investigation, he agrees: after all, he'll only be an observer.

But in this case, nothing is at it seems. The victim has been bound and tortured, and the body has decomposed beyond recognition - far more than it should have given the timeframe. There are fingerprints at the scene - but do they really identify the killer? Trying to track down the killer leads to the discovery of another body is found and it soon becomes clear that nothing is straightforward in this investigation. When David Hunter points out some inconsistencies, he discovers that not everyone investigating is happy about his involvement. He is, after all, British not American.

In the meantime, the killer is fascinated by death and what happens at the point of death and is not likely to stop killing. But who is the killer? How many people have they killed, and over what period of time? And how (and who) will stop the killer? When events escalate, the investigators realise that they are searching for a serial killer with a detailed knowledge of forensic pathology.

`Life's too short.'

This is Simon Beckett's third book (of four so far published) to feature forensic anthropologist David Hunter. I enjoyed this novel, as I have the other three, but did not much care for the italicised passages from the mind of the killer. For me, those passages slowed down the narrative without adding much value to the story.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars creepy stuff April 29 2011
By Tom Henry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sometimes, I'm not sure whether I should love or hate Simon Beckett. Right now, I guess, I'm hating him. Hating him for having spoiled my vacation so effectively.
For no apparent reason, I have developed the habit of choosing Beckett's novels as a means of idle distraction for the long hours I plan to spend at the beach. Written in bone and chemistry of death, however, didn't only serve their purpose, but held me more than spellbound in recent years.
So I should have known better. This year it was even worse. Instead of snorkeling or taking part in other worthwhile seaside activities I delved into Becket's recent work, the whispers of the dead till the wee hours of the morning.
The plot itself loosely connects with the end of Written in bone. Dr. Hunter, still suffering from the effects of a vicious knife attack and the recent split from his girlfriend follows the invitation of an old friend to America to assist him in his work on the world famous body farm, a pathology institution in the heartland of Tennessee concerned with the decay of human remnants in its various stages.
A heavy decomposed corpse is found in a remote cabin in the Smoky Mountains and arouses the interest of the TBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Other dead bodies turn up and pretty soon the British anthropologist finds himself in middle of the ongoing investigation which once again results in a matter of life and death.
Well, an arid dustcover description like this doesn't prepare you in the least for the hell bound roller coaster the British author takes you on.
It isn't just the grisly details of eviscerated bodies Beckett often dwells on (although your stomach might take the one or other heavy jolt)
Actually, it is his pure narrative craft which draws the reader slowly but relentlessly into a psychological nightmare, you won't forget.
Did I say I hate Simon Beckett?
The guy gives me the creeps.
Please, give me more of it.
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