I have no idea why the publisher decided not to publish Simon Beckett’s fourth Dr. David Hunter book in the United States, but it took me a long time to locate a copy of The Calling of Grave, published in the UK in 2010. It’s a measure of how much I enjoy the series that I continued to look all this time.
In the previous book, Hunter visited the university body farm in Tennessee; I mentioned that I’d be disappointed if he stayed there, even though I liked the third book in the series, and can happily report that in #4 he’s back in England.
But #4 begins in the past, with a prologue that recounts the tragic death of Hunter’s wife and daughter, an event that has formed a backdrop for the rest of the series. We learn here that they died in a car accident after he changed his plans and asked his wife to pick up their daughter so that he could rush off and confront a police officer whose actions upset his wife. That same officer, Terry Connors, figures into this mystery as well.
In The Calling of the Grave, Dr. Hunter along with Connors and several other characters, must revisit a failed attempt to locate the bodies of three victims of a serial killer, Jerome Monk. Monk is uncannily strong but deformed by a forceps delivery that killed his mother, which together with the fact that he’s confessed to killing several young women, is the stuff of nightmares. Now, 8 years later, Monk has escaped, and all the loose ends surrounding the case seem ominous.
Hunter gets involved when Sophie Keller, who had been a behavioral expert working on the first investigation, calls David and asks him to come to her home near the moors to talk with her. He’s not sure what’s going on, but he gets dragged into the case when he arrives and finds Sophie beaten and unconscious on the floor. He joins forces with her to try to figure out where Monk is and what happened all those years ago.
Like most serial killer books, there is plenty of violence to spread around; both David and Sophie are badly injured at various points, and several people die violent deaths before it’s over. But Beckett never indulges in gratuitous descriptions, and I didn’t find it to be too much.
Beckett’s next book, Stone Bruises, is a standalone thriller according to his website; I can only hope the publisher will remember his U.S. readers this time!
Many thanks to the Southwest Georgia Regional Library for purchasing a copy of The Calling of the Grave, and allowing me to borrow it through the PINES library system.