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BOOK REVIEW: CARVED IN BONE
BY JEFFERSON BASS
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The opening paragraph describes a man finding the right spot in another man’s back (between “his fourth and fifth ribs”) to stick a hunting knife. Gruesome?
Oh, yeah and so is much of the rest of Carved in Bone. However, it is the perfect writing for a murder mystery that is solved by a forensic anthropologist who is a professor at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Bill Brockton not only teaches at the University but he also is in charge of the Body Farm. This particular farm is the “final” resting place for many cadavers that are used in various ways for both research and teaching.
While Dr. Brockton was attempting to disprove a finding in court of how a person was stabbed, a deputy sheriff from Cooke County, Tennessee interrupted him. The deputy was looking to take the doctor back to Cooke County to meet with the sheriff to help solve a mystery. The deputy had never been to the Body Farm and didn’t realize that the person being stabbed was already dead. He had also never witnessed a stabbing so his immediate response was to pass out!
From that introduction Carved in Bone goes on to be an interesting and somewhat involved read. Interesting because it details the happenings in the backcountry of Cooke County and its natives. Involved because the author (Jefferson Bass) is really a writing team composed of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. This team writes about the Body Farm, which Dr. Bass founded. They write both fiction and non-fiction but primarily about forensics. Reading about forensics can become quite involved with the description of bones and human bodies in general.
Jefferson Bass has fictionalized this account but it reads well enough to be taken as a true story. Mountain folk who are naturally clannish and close-mouthed make up most of the characters. The main characters are the family and associates of the sheriff. The mystery begins with the finding of a fairly well preserved body in a cave, which is deep in the woods behind a Primitive Baptist Church, which happens to have been headed by the father of the current sheriff.
When Dr. Brockton examined the body he discovered that not only was it a young female but that she was (a) pregnant and (b) was strangled to death. His examination leads to further investigating, which turns up many illegal happenings in the county that include cockfights, pot farms, and payoffs to law enforcement.
And not only is Dr Brockton drawn into these happenings but his own mind is still in a quandary over having lost his wife and having become distanced from his only son.
Many angles and many twists help to make Carved in Bone an extremely good read. And the reader may even come away with a better knowledge of the human body from a forensic viewpoint.
REVIEWED BY ALLEN HOTT
DO NOT REPRINT
WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, ALLEN HOTT
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