Carved in Bone (Body Farm Series #1)

Carved in Bone (Body Farm Series #1)

3.9 1611
by Jefferson Bass
     
 

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"A woman's corpse lies hidden in a cave in the mountains of East Tennessee. Undiscovered for thirty years, her body has been transformed by the cave's chemistry into a near-perfect mummy - one that discloses an explosive secret to renowned anthropologist Bill Brockton. Dr. Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death and decay at the Body Farm, but even he is… See more details below

Overview

"A woman's corpse lies hidden in a cave in the mountains of East Tennessee. Undiscovered for thirty years, her body has been transformed by the cave's chemistry into a near-perfect mummy - one that discloses an explosive secret to renowned anthropologist Bill Brockton. Dr. Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death and decay at the Body Farm, but even he is baffled by this case unfolding in a unique environment where nothing is quite what it seems." The surreal setting is Cooke County, a remote mountain community that's clannish, insular, and distrustful of outsiders. The heartbreaking discovery of the young woman's corpse reopens old wounds and rekindles feuds dating back decades. The county's powerful and uncooperative sheriff and his inept deputy threaten to derail Brockton's investigation altogether. So do Brockton's other nemeses: his lingering guilt over the death of his wife, and the fury of a medical examiner whom Brockton dares to oppose in court.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The pseudonymous Bass makes a successful first foray into fiction. The author is actually the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who founded the legendary Body Farm (Tennessee's experimental laboratory devoted to the study of the way human corpses decompose), and Jon Jefferson, a journalist and filmmaker. Their new sleuth, Dr. Bill Brockton, is obviously based on Dr. Bass, sharing his first name, initials and his status as founder of the Body Farm. (The two coauthored Death's Acre, a nonfiction account of that macabre if scientifically valuable facility.) Still recovering from the emotional devastation of his wife's death, Dr. Brockton stumbles across a mummified female body, and his passion for the truth enmeshes him in a probe that verifies rumors of local corruption. His particular skills are vital to identifying the corpse as well as those who might have been motivated to kill the victim decades earlier. The pacing and action bode well for this crime series, though mystery fans who enjoy whodunits might hope that subsequent books pose more of a puzzle. 7-city author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Crime and science slug it out in this second book from writing team Jon Jefferson and Bill Bass (Death's Acre, 2003), a neatly-done mystery aimed straight at the CSI set. It's just another day on the job for University of Tennessee forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton. Tom Kitchings, sheriff of hardscrabble Cooke County, has invited him out to look at a body, hoping that the crime-fighting professor will be able to draw a few clues from the corpse. Brockton's investigation has only begun to get rolling, though, when suggestions start to come from the county's hidden mountain hollows that this mystery might be better left unsolved. From there the tale turns into a whirl of backwoods shenanigans-cockfights, drug-running, family feuds-with just enough science thrown in to make readers feel like they've learned something. The book slows a bit whenever the story drifts to the agonies of the good doctor's love life, but these digressions are mercifully brief. The whole affair grows more and more noirish, with the plot's convolutions culminating in a finale that finds fresh bodies hitting the floor in an unexpected pattern. Southern-fried forensics. Nothing too fancy, but it does taste good going down.
Houston Chronicle
“A superb mystery—well-plotted, filled with memorable characters, based on accurate forensic science.”
Lansing State Journal
“[A] knockout...full of rich and sometimes stomach-turning forensic detail.”
USA Today
“[A] unique corpse, solid science, quirky humor and a lovable protagonist.”
Kathy Reichs
“CARVED IN BONE brims with terrific forensic detail...the real deal.”
Jeff Abbott
“Fantastic forensic detail and an engaging hero … an authoritative, compelling new voice to the forensic mystery.”
Dr. Henry Lee
“Offers terrific forensic details and the science of solving cold cases. It is electrifying, provocative and full of surprises.”
James Starrs
“Percolates with wit, gentility, and scientific savoir-faire ... alive with verve and charm...engrossingly entertaining.”
Katherine Ramsland
“Move over, Kathy Reichs. The Sherlock Holmes for bones has arrived.”
Emily A. Craig
“A gripping murder mystery.”
Stephen White
“CARVED IN BONE introduces a captivating protagonist and is full of obscure, fascinating forensics. [A] fine new talent.”
Michael M. Baden
“[F]ascinating...a delightful course in “how to examine a skeleton,” and the intrigues of the Tennessee moonshine backwoods!”
Doctor - Henry Lee
"Offers terrific forensic details and the science of solving cold cases. It is electrifying, provocative and full of surprises."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060759827
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/26/2006
Series:
Body Farm Series, #1
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.76(w) x 10.86(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

Carved in Bone

A Body Farm Novel
By Jefferson Bass

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Bass
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006075981X

Chapter One

Five minutes had passed since the deputy's eyelids first fluttered open, and he still hadn't spoken, so I figured maybe it was up to me to break the ice. "I'm Dr. Brockton, but I expect you know that," I said. He nodded weakly. According to the bar of brass on his chest, his name was Williams. "This your first visit to the Body Farm, Deputy Williams?" He nodded again.

"Body Farm" wasn't my facility's real name, but the nickname -- coined by a local FBI agent and given title billing in a bestselling crime novel by Patricia Cornwell -- seemed to have stuck. Cornwell set only a brief scene of the novel at my postmortem-decay research lab at the University of Tennessee, but that one scene -- along with the facility's catchy nickname and macabre mission -- must have been enough. As soon as the book hit the shelves, the phone started ringing and the media descended in droves. The upshot is, millions of people know about the Body Farm, though few of them know its boring but official name: the Anthropology Research Facility. Unlike some of my colleagues, I don't care which name people use. To paraphrase Shakespeare, a Body Farm by any other name would still stink.

A lot of people wonder what an anthropologist is doing with dozens of rotting human corpses scattered across (and beneath) three acres of Tennessee woods. When they hear the term "anthropology," they think of Margaret Mead and her sexually liberated Samoans, or Jane Goodall and her colony of chimps, not physical anthropologists and their calipers and bones. But the rise of forensic anthropology -- using the tools of physical anthropology to help solve crimes -- seems to be elevating the profile of the bone detectives. It's amazing what you can learn about murder victims by studying their skulls, their rib cages, their pelvises, and other bones. Who was this person who was cut into pieces and hidden in a junkyard? What's the age, race, sex, and stature? Do his dental fillings or healed fractures match X-rays of missing persons? Is that hole in the skull from a gunshot wound or a golf club? Was he dismembered with a chain saw or a surgeon's scalpel? Finally -- and here's where my facility has made its greatest mark over the past quarter-century -- judging by the degree of decomposition, how long has this poor bastard been dead?

Of course, when word gets around that you've got dozens of dead bodies in various states of disrepair, all sorts of interesting research questions come your way. That's why I now found myself kneeling over a corpse, plunging a hunting knife into his back.

I looked down at my "victim," the weapon still jutting from the oozing wound. "I'm running a little experiment here," I said to the shell-shocked deputy who had caught me in flagrante delicto. "Despite the knife in his back, this fellow actually died of a coronary -- halfway through a marathon." Williams blinked in surprise, but I just shrugged in a go-figure sort of way. "Forty years old, ran every day. I guess you could say his legs just outran his heart." I waited for a laugh, but there wasn't one. "Anyhow, his wife took some of my anthropology classes here at UT about twenty years ago, so when he keeled over, she donated his body for research. I'm not sure if that says good things or bad things about the marriage."

Williams's eyes cleared and focused a bit -- he seemed to be at least considering whether to smile at this one -- so I kept talking. The words, I figured, gave him something to latch on to as he hauled himself out of his tailspin. "I'm testifying in a homicide case that's about to go to trial, and I'm trying to reproduce a stab wound -- what the medical examiner's autopsy called the fatal wound -- but I'm not having much luck. Looks like I'd have to violate a couple of laws of physics or metallurgy to get that blade to follow the path the ME described." His eyes swiveled from my face to the corpse and back to me again. "See, the ME's report had the blade entering the victim's back on the left side, then angling up across the spine, and finally veering sharply into the right lobe of the lung. Can't be done. Not by me, at least. Between you and me and the gatepost, I think the ME botched the autopsy."

I had propped the deputy against the trunk of an oak tree. By now he looked like maybe he was ready to get up, so I peeled off a glove and hauled him to his feet. "Take a look around, if you want," I said, nodding toward a cluster of clothed bodies at the edge of the main clearing. "You might see something that'll help you with a case someday." He considered this, then took a tentative glance around the clearing. "Over there, we've got a decomposition experiment that's comparing cotton clothing with synthetic fabrics. We need to know if certain types of fabric slow down or speed up the decomp rate. So far, looks like cotton's the winner."

"What difference would it make?" Ah: he could talk!

"Cotton holds moisture longer, which the flies and maggots seem to like. Keeps the skin nice and soft." He winced, clearly regretting the question. "Up the hill in the woods," I went on, "we've got a screened-in hut where we're keeping the bugs away from a body. You'd be amazed how much the decomp rate slows when bugs can't get to the corpse." I turned to him. "One of my students just finished a study of cadaver weight loss; guess how many pounds a day a body can lose?" He stared at me as if I were from another planet. "Forty pounds in one day, if the body's really fat. Maggots are like teenage boys: you just can't fill 'em up."

He grimaced and shook his head, but he grinned, too. Finally. "So you've got bodies laid out all over the ground here?"

Continues...


Excerpted from Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass Copyright © 2006 by Jefferson Bass. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

James Starrs
“Percolates with wit, gentility, and scientific savoir-faire ... alive with verve and charm...engrossingly entertaining.”
Kathy Reichs
“CARVED IN BONE brims with terrific forensic detail...the real deal.”
Emily A. Craig
“A gripping murder mystery.”
Michael M. Baden
“[F]ascinating...a delightful course in “how to examine a skeleton,” and the intrigues of the Tennessee moonshine backwoods!”
Katherine Ramsland
“Move over, Kathy Reichs. The Sherlock Holmes for bones has arrived.”
Henry Lee
“Offers terrific forensic details and the science of solving cold cases. It is electrifying, provocative and full of surprises.”
Jeff Abbott
“Fantastic forensic detail and an engaging hero … an authoritative, compelling new voice to the forensic mystery.”
Stephen White
“CARVED IN BONE introduces a captivating protagonist and is full of obscure, fascinating forensics. [A] fine new talent.”

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