Forensic pathologist, Dr. Edward Jenner has left New York City where his medical license was suspended and political fall-out from his actions in a serial murder case haunt his every step. Jenner's former mentor asks Jenner to come down and cover his position as the Douglas County, Florida, medical examiner while he and his wife go on vacation. Jenner's solace is shattered, however, when a car containing the murdered corpses of Jenner's mentor and his mentor's wife is pulled out of a canal. Jenner's situation only grows worse when he receives an phone tip leading him to the hanging corpses of four more bodies. As law enforcement begins to learn of Jenner's past and cut him off from the investigation, Jenner's determination to avenge his mentor soars.
A HARD DEATH is one intense thriller. Jonathan Hayes brings the experience of a veteran medical examiner to the pages of this book. His descriptions, while not gratuitously grotesque, are realistic and allow the reader to experience first hand:
"It wouldn't be like on TV, where you can tell the dead by the unearthly pallor of their skin and their frigid blue lips: in the real world, most dead people look like live people, look as though, if you called to them loudly enough, they'd sit up and climb down from the table."The realism flows through to his characters as well. Despite their flaws, there's a level of empathy for the characters, for their struggles and experiences. And all of the characters are complex, multi-layered beings - points of beauty, glaring foibles, blunders and perfections. I found Hayes' characters to be a major strength in A HARD DEATH.
The characters combined with a quick-paced plot kept me up late turning pages. Hayes found a setting, the Florida Glades, that set the tone for eerie atmosphere, but it's his use of the setting, the events that take place in that setting, that builds the intensity and the suspense.
We waited awhile for A HARD DEATH, but this novel was certainly worth that wait. Hayes has written a chillingly wonderful forensic thriller.
A HARD DEATH is now available in hardcover from Harper (ISBN: 978-0-061-69176-8).