BOOK REVIEW: THE DEVIL'S BONES
Looking for a thriller/mystery novel that will satisfy your burning desire for bodies, blood, fiery explosions, and that intense rush of adrenaline that only the best thriller/mystery novels can give you? Then look no further than The Devil's Bones, the latest page-turning, nail-biting thriller by the New York Times bestselling collaborative writing duo of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson, known collectively by the non de plum of Jefferson Bass. Dr. Bass is the "world-renowned forensic anthropologist who founded the University of Tennessee's Body Farm--the world's first, and only, laboratory devoted to human body decomposition," and Jon Jefferson is "A veteran journalist, science writer, and documentary filmmaker," who has also has "written for the New York Times, Newsweek, and National Public Radio."
Dr. Bill Brockton has his hands full at the start of the tale with an investigation into the suspicious death of Mary Latham, whose body was discovered burned in her car. The person that would stand to gain the most from her death, her husband, has the perfect alibi--he had been in Las Vegas gambling when the fire had started. It's up to Dr. Brockton to figure out how the fire began, and who killed her. To do this, a little experiment is necessary--he lights three cars on fire, each with a dead body in it, in various stages of decomposition, to see how the crack patterns in the bones look when they're burned.
Besides this, a Dr. Garland Hamilton, whom Brockton proved testimony against and who murdered Brockton's lover, Jess Carter--and tried to make it look as if Brockton was responsible for it--has escaped from police custody. He is after revenge on Brockton, and will stop at nothing to make him pay for being the person who ruined his career and life. Dr. Brockton is afraid Hamilton might go after his newest protégé, Miranda Lovelady, to try to make Brockton suffer even further.
When the police believe they know where Hamilton is hiding out and surround the cabin, and it explodes, they think the charred skeleton inside must be Hamilton's--only the Devil himself could escape under such conditions. However, when Dr. Brockton examines the bones of the skeleton at the scene, he finds that the person was dead before the explosion occurred:
"This isn't what's left of a skeleton." The search crew froze, and I felt everyone's eyes riveted on me. "This was dry bone before the fire."
Also, the lawyer Burt DeVriess, who represented Dr. Brockton and helped prove his innocence in the murder of Jess Carter in the book Carved In Bone, asks Brockton to investigate and determine whether or not the ashes of his Aunt Jean he was sent by Trinity Crematorium in Georgia are actually human remains. They'd promised to give him the artificial metal knees his aunt had, but never had done so.
His investigation takes him to the crematorium in Georgia, where he is met with a scene from out of Dante's Inferno--stacks of bodies everywhere, in an old rusty hearse with four flat tires, in the woods, and the grounds of Trinity Crematorium. Brockton says it's like he and his friend Art had just "discovered the world's worst serial killer. Instead, I'm thinking we just discovered the world's worst crematorium." Overhead is pretty low if the relatives of the dearly departed are mailed a mixture of human and animal bones and Quikrete instead of the ashes of the deceased.
The Devil's Bones is the kind of book you can't put down. It is all the more interesting because it's based on real forensic research, and stories from the news. I think it may have been a funeral home in Georgia instead of a crematorium which got in trouble for not burying bodies; but, regardless, the addition of this story line to an already excellent novel added even more realism to it, at least for me. I highly recommend The Devil's Bones--you'll want to burn the midnight oil reading it. Just be careful, and have a fire extinguisher near by!
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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