Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Flesh and Bone

Since I live in a small town our local library is also appropriately proportioned having a limited selection.  Now if you are a voracious reader like I am it's very easy to exhaust their collection.  I'm finding it more and more difficult to find something to read which I haven't already read  and which falls somewhat within the genres I like.

During my most recent visit to the library I had to resort to "random grabbing" after spending more than thirty minutes fruitlessly browsing (in a small library!) for something new.  The cover of "Flesh and Bone" caught my eye and I took it home.

Flesh and Bone

Author:  Jefferson Bass
Pages:  400pp
ISBN 9781847242808
Buy it from the Book Depository

Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the world-famous Body Farm, is hard at work on a troubling new case. A young man's battered body has been found in nearby Chattanooga, and it's up to the talented Dr. Brockton to assemble the pieces of the forensic puzzle. Brockton is brought into the case by the rising star of the state's mechanical examiners, Jess Carter. 

Just as they're on the verge of breaking the case open, events take a terrifying turn. Brockton has re-created the Chattanooga death scene at the Body Farm, but a killer tampers with it in a shocking way: placing another corpse at the setting, confusing authorities and putting Brockton's career and life in jeopardy. Soon Brockton himself is accused of the horrific new crime, and the once-beloved professor becomes an outcast. As the net around him tightens, Brockton must use all of his forensic skills to prove his own innocence . . . before he ends up behind bars with some of the very killers he's helped to convict. 

The Verdict:

I must say I was very pleasantly surprised and learned quite a few things too.  The author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. Dr. Bass is a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, the Body Farm, where human decomposition is studied by letting donated cadavers decompose naturally under various conditions.

Ever wondered how the folks on CSI (and for that matter the real police force) can get such accurate estimates of the time of death of victims?  Well, it's all thanks to the extensive work done in the real world Body Farm where the various stages of human decomposition and the related insect infestations are carefully cataloged for comparison purposes.

The intricate forensic knowledge of the author shines through in "Flesh and Bone" and makes for an interesting and compelling read.  At times it can become somewhat gruesome but the realism just adds to the story.  The characters are believable and later in the story you really feel empathy for the loss Dr Brockton suffers.

The creationist subtext is excellently handled and gives voice to a real world debate without becoming preachy.

I finished this novel in one go.  You are kept guessing about the identity of the killer until the last moment and what an interesting (if somewhat predictable) twist it is!

Highly recommended for any crime/forensic anthropology fans who are interested in how things really work.  I will definitely be on the lookout for more of the Body Farm novels.

Rating: 7/10

Buy it from the Book Depository

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