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author's profile photo Jerry Janda

Weekend Book Club: "The Scent of Death"

Note: If you noticed that this post reads almost entirely like my other conversation, you're right. I got lazy and copied the whole thing -- making a few edits. I'm admitting this before the book club starts off with people accusing me of plagiarism (even though I'm only stealing my own writing).

Per the Weekend [Whatever] Club conversation, we have a candidate for a book-discussion group -- and, by request, we're going to start with "The Scent of Death" by Simon Beckett.


Sunday, March 15, 2:00 p.m. ET


Join Zoom Meeting (Additional details on joining can be found in my comments below.)


Can't make it? Don't wanna join a call? No problem -- we still want you to be part of the club! On the date/time of the call, I'll leave a comment here -- letting everyone know that they can also discuss the book in this thread. I only ask that you refrain from starting that conversation before the call. I'd like to kick everything off at once!

DISCLAIMER: I've not read the book, so I can't comment on its content -- but here's a link to its goodreads entry if you want to do a little research before you head to the library. If murder mysteries ain't your cup a tea, you may want to sit this one out -- but please feel free to suggest other books below or in the original Weekend [Whatever] Club thread. Always happy for suggestions!

cc: Florian Henninger Julie Plummer

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  • Feb 20, 2020 at 12:40 PM

    "murder mysteries" are definitely my thing!

    Have bought the book - will be taking it on vacation!

    Thanks Jerry.


  • Feb 25, 2020 at 03:12 PM

    Hi, Florian Henninger and Julie Plummer :

    Look what arrived in the mail the other day!

    I'm about 60 pages in, and it's very good so far. (Nice recommendation, Florian.) I'm looking forward to discussing...which means I should go ahead and schedule something.

    Since the first Weekend Movie Club seemed to do well on a Saturday at noon ET (accommodating colleagues in India and the U.S. West Coast), I'm leaning toward Saturday, March 14 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

    Would that work for you both? Please let me know in the comments. (And anyone else who'd like to join -- please let me know what dates/times work for you!)


    book-club.jpg (453.8 kB)
    • Feb 25, 2020 at 07:34 PM

      Hi Jerry,

      2 o'clock pm ET would be fine. It's 8 o'clock pm at my timezone, so kids are in bed and I'm able to do what I want to *haha*

      Day doesn't matter. Just the time...


      • Mar 02, 2020 at 04:07 PM

        Hi, Florian Henninger

        That time (2:00 p.m. ET) works for me. I'll stick with Saturday...unless someone else requests a different day.

        Julie Plummer, would that be OK with you (2:00 p.m. ET on Saturday the 14th)?

        Anybody else want to propose a day/time? If I don't get any additional input by the end of this week, I'll schedule for 2:00 p.m. ET on the 14th.

        Thanks, all!


        • Mar 08, 2020 at 07:24 PM

          Hi Jerry, hi everyone,

          Sorry, was on vacation, then had a big backlog

          Please schedule the call(s) without me. As I said originally, I will probably take part virtually- ie vis blog comments- most of the time. This works better for me- regardless of when the call is scheduled.
          However, I will do my utmost to join the inaugural call - and this time is good for me.
          Thanks for this, Jerry; looking forward to it.
          (btw - I’m about half way through- very very good so far!(M)

          Best wishes


      • Mar 09, 2020 at 11:59 AM

        Hi, Florian Henninger

        Since you and I are the only ones who have committed so far, I'm going to make it 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 15. That gives any last-minute readers an extra Saturday to catch up on the book!

        I'll post details soon. Thanks!


  • Mar 09, 2020 at 12:15 PM

    Florian Henninger

    Here are the details for joining the call:

    Topic: Weekend Book Club: "The Scent of Death"

    Time: Mar 15, 2020 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

    Join Zoom Meeting

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  • Mar 15, 2020 at 06:32 PM

    Alas, no one was able to join the call, but that's OK -- because we can have the conversation right here! (I could also schedule another call...if people need more time to read or would prefer a different day/time. Perhaps Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ET isn't ideal...?)

    I'll begin. (If you haven't read the book, prepare for spoilers.)

    Overall, I enjoyed the plot. I loved the setting. (I have a thing for creepy abandoned hospitals. Maybe I should suggest Session 9 for a future Weekend Movie Club!)

    But the characters?

    Not so much.

    They were just so petty and mean to each other. There was no one I could even connect to -- not even our protagonist, David Hunter, mainly because he seems incapable of sticking up for himself. Just about every character in the book takes advantage of him or insults him...and he does absolutely nothing about it.

    Also, is David incapable of understanding there are certain people he shouldn't visit? He goes to Lola's house multiple times, despite the fact that she's a truly awful person and makes it quite clear she doesn't want him around. (And why the heck does she let him in, when she's got a huge secret lying on a bed in the living room?) In fact, once we get to about page 300, and he goes to see her again, that was the point I knew she must have been the killer...because the book was almost over and we had pretty much eliminated all other characters as suspects. So unless the author was prepared to squeeze in a new plot point and character with a few chapters left, I knew we must have meet the killer...and she seemed to be the only logical choice remaining.

    By the point we get to the epilogue, David doesn't appear to have learned anything. He goes to see Mears (and the outcome is everyone but David, apparently). He even goes to see Grace! Seriously? It's almost like he plans his social visits in order to satisfy some sort of masochistic tendencies.

    Am I being too harsh here? Did anyone else like any of the characters? And am I alone in thinking that David needs more of a backbone (and better social skills)?

    Please leave your comments...and/or feel free to bring up other points to discuss. Also, if you have book suggestions for future conversations, let me know!

    book-club.jpg (62.4 kB)
  • Mar 16, 2020 at 12:32 PM

    Also, Tammy Powlas used Twitter to make a book recommendation: To the Land of Long Lost Friends: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

    Please let me know if you're interested and I can schedule our next call for April (to give everyone enough time to pick up a copy of the book and read it).


  • Mar 24, 2020 at 07:38 PM

    Hi Jerry, hi all, sorry I couldn’t make the call. Intended to join earlier, but juggling work from home plus helping with a fifth-grader’s homework has been... challenging !

    So: I really liked the plot, the science details, mostly the style - fairly naturalistic, good banter (maybe that’s very British?). I read crime fiction from all over, but it’s nice to read a British one.
    Ok, now the characters: I don’t feel as strongly as you, Jerry, but I absolutely agree with you on your main point - characters in crime novels going unwittingly into the killer’s house - all alone, without telling a soul. Suddenly, they realize- too late! - it all goes black. Then they wake up in hospital, because the police are psychic. Aaargh! And this happens in so many otherwise well-written novels. It’s a pet peeve.
    Otherwise, I don’t know why Hunter doesn’t stand up for himself. I have some sympathy - someone is rude, but I can’t find a witty retort (till 10 minutes later.) But he could have been more feisty. Mears was a piece of work- but I’ve met a few Mears IRL (not SAP), so I can accept that.
    Ward and Whelan I found too negative to Hunter. However, part of that I think is British vs US culture. I sometimes find US characters too gushing. They say things like: You’re the smartest guy / woman in the country / we’re lucky to have you in the force / you’re a real mensch.” Whereas Brits say : “You’re not doing too badly so far / that was brave, but also **** stupid. Don’t ever do it again ” :-). (There’s actually a local phrase here: “Nicht getadelt ist Lob genug”’ - loosely: “If I dont reprimand you, that’s praise enough”. UK is similar.)

    Ok, those are my thoughts: All in all, enjoyed it; will add Beckett to my list of authors.

    Florian- your turn?!

    I will join in next month’s book as well. Cheers all. Stay well.

    • Mar 29, 2020 at 06:36 PM
    • Mar 30, 2020 at 02:42 PM

      Hi, Julie:

      Thanks for the input. That's a fair point -- British vs. U.S. When I think of all the U.S. noir detectives, the Dirty Harry types, the Spencers, etc., I just imagine how they would react to Mears. :) (And it wasn't just Mears though. It was like every detective involved in the case...and everyone in Hunter's life. If they weren't trying to kill him, they were trying to take advantage of him, talking down to him, leaving him. It was like he had a perpetual black cloud following him.)

      I'm going to start the new book tonight. I'm glad you'll be joining us for the next conversation!


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