Good Bones 

The Body Farm doctor shines in a second outing

In Jefferson Bass’ second Body Farm novel, Flesh and Bone (William Morrow, 368 pp., $24.95), Brockton sleuths his way through creationists, transsexuals, medical examiners and a murder charge to find the bad guys at the heart of an abominable crime.

by Chris Scott

Dr. Bill Brockton is back, offering more gory details of the life and times of a famous forensic anthropologist. Brockton is modeled on Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the University of Tennessee’s Body Farm, where cadavers are allowed to do what comes naturally—rot—while scientists study the process. In Jefferson Bass’ second Body Farm novel, Flesh and Bone (William Morrow, 368 pp., $24.95), Brockton sleuths his way through creationists, transsexuals, medical examiners and a murder charge to find the bad guys at the heart of an abominable crime.

Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson, who collaborate under the pseudonym Jefferson Bass, have a best-selling series on their hands, and it’s not hard to understand why. After a solid if somewhat uneven first book, their scientists and cops are getting more comfortable with each other, providing the kind of entertainment expected of first-tier mysteries. Adding to the interesting mix of characters is a thorough knowledge of crime investigation—not the gee-whiz technogimmickry pushed on a gullible public by TV writers, but the real thing told by people who’ve seen and done it. Bass has participated in hundreds of criminal investigations and has taught thousands of students how to read the bones of the dead. Imparting this experience to the lay reader through the fictional adventures of Brockton will rightly expand Bass’ reputation to the general public.

Flesh and Bone finds Dr. Brockton using the Body Farm to re-create the scene of a grotesque murder. But when the artificial crime scene becomes the real thing, and all the evidence points to Brockton as the murderer, he is suddenly on his own, trying to stay off death row. His chance at love is gone, the university has cut him loose because of his “tirade” against intelligent design, and an unknown adversary is plotting to have him share the fate of his research cadavers. On the way to solving the mystery, the reader is treated to enough talk of maggots and digital voice analysis to keep wannabe CSI technicians on the edge of their seats. Brockton will undoubtedly return, and he will be welcome.

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