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BOOK REVIEW: BONES OF BETRAYAL
BY JEFFERSONN BASS
We hope you enjoy this book review by
Douglas R. Cobb.
Forensic anthropologist and Body Farm founder Dr. Bill Brockton is back in Bones of Betrayal: A Body Farm Novel, the fourth novel in the highly popular best-selling series. An unidentified body pulled from a frozen murky swimming pool in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, chainsawed free from the thick ice by Brockton. The dead body is that of the 90+-year-old Dr. Leonard Novak, a renowned Manhattan Project physicist and the designer of the plutonium reactor used to create the first atomic bombs in 1945. The autopsy, eventually performed after Novak's body thaws enough by Dr. Eddie Garcia, reveals that the cause of the physicist's death was not drowning, but radiation poisoning. Trying to discover who killed Novak and the body of a second man found later in the same pool means the good doctor and his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady need to uncover secrets from over a half a century ago, involving the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Oak Ridge was during WWII one of the most important military installations in the United States, and was literally a "Secret City." As the writing duo of Dr. Bill Bass (the forensic anthropologist who founded the Bone Farm, on whom the fictional Dr. Bill Brockton is based) and Jon Jefferson (a veteran journalist, science writer, and documentary filmmaker) write about the city that seemed to spring up overnight:
"Here, in a top secret military installation - so secret the town was not shown on maps
until after 1945 - eighty thousand production workers and scientists had raced night
and day for two years to produce the material for the first atomic bombs. Those
awesome, awful clouds that roiled up from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were created,
in great measure, here in this sleepy town in East Tennessee."
Dr. Bill Bass, Miranda, and Detective Emert (the lead officer on the case) are at the autopsy of Novak. In attempting to determine the cause of death, none of them suspect radiation, though Garcia says to them as he works: "I'm seeing a lot of blood and necrosis in the gut," and it seems to him: "Almost like the GI tract has been burned." He eventually finds the source - a small pellet "roughly the size of a dried black bean." Miranda had X-rayed the body, but the film "came out fogged." It suddenly hits them what the pellet potentially is - but, before Bass can stop her, Miranda grabs the pellet from Garcia to get rid of it, and drops it "into the stainless steel sink."
When the pellet is recovered and placed into a lead shielded box, it proves to be iridium-192. Though Miranda's contact with it was brief, there's a risk she'll lose some of her fingers. Dr. Bass's and Emert's exposure wasn't as great, though there is some risk to them, as well. Dr. Garcia, it's feared, having spent much longer in the vicinity of the corpse, while he was waiting for it to thaw and was doing other autopsies, may lose his hands, his career, and possibly his life.
Who would want to murder Novak, now 93 years old? Was it the same person who wrote on a wadded-up piece of paper Dr. Bass finds outside Novak's door: "I know your secret"? Where did the killer get a hold of the iridium-192 and how did he/she cause Novak to swallow it? And, what happened to a knife that appears to be missing from Novak's collection? Dr. Bass has his hands full trying to figure out the answers to these questions and more. He is aided by the stories about the past that Beatrice, an elderly lady he meets at Novak's funeral tells him, though he has to separate what is real and what is not from her recollections.
Also, Dr. Bass starts to revive romantic feelings he'd thought might be gone with the passing of his wife, Jesse. He is attracted to Isabella, a librarian in Oak Ridge who aids him in his research. A roll of film he discovers in a can of Prince Albert tobacco stored in Novak's refrigerator has an eerie series of photos on it. They depict a man who has been shot in the right temple, a soldier, who is being laid into a shallow grave. There's a barn and a silo in the photos, and Bass wants help locating where they might be, or once were, to find the body and see if he has any link to the deaths of Novak, and the second body recovered from the pool - a writer for the National Geographic and the History Channel.
If you're a lover of the mystery or true crime genres, or are interested in forensic science and television shows like CSI, you're sure to love reading Bones of Betrayal. It can be read and enjoyed without having read the previous three novels in the series, but I urge you to also read them, if you haven't yet done so, as they are all excellent, suspenseful novels you'll want to add to your reading lists.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
DO NOT REPRINT
WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, DOUGLAS R. COBB
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