The Devil's Bones (Body Farm Series #3)

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Overview

In two previous New York Times bestselling novels, Jefferson Bass enthralled readers with ripped-from-the-headlines forensic cases, memorable characters, and plots that "rival Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Drawing on research at the Body Farm—three acres of land in the backwoods of Tennessee, where bodies are left to the elements to illuminate human decomposition—Bass has moved fiction to a fascinating new realm, with forensics expertise drawn from his five decades of work as ...

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The Devil's Bones (Body Farm Series #3)

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Overview

In two previous New York Times bestselling novels, Jefferson Bass enthralled readers with ripped-from-the-headlines forensic cases, memorable characters, and plots that "rival Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Drawing on research at the Body Farm—three acres of land in the backwoods of Tennessee, where bodies are left to the elements to illuminate human decomposition—Bass has moved fiction to a fascinating new realm, with forensics expertise drawn from his five decades of work as the world's leading forensic anthropologist. But this latest novel cements Jefferson Bass as one of the finest writers of suspense working today, and in a work of drama, cunning, and heartbreak, thrills the reader with fiction that feels all too real.

A woman's charred body has been found inside a burned car perched atop a hill in Knoxville. Is it accidental death, or murder followed by arson? Forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton's quest for answers prompts an experiment straight from Dante's Inferno: In the dark of night, he puts bodies to the torch, researching how fire consumes flesh and bone.

In the meantime, Brockton is sent a mysterious package—a set of cremated remains that looks entirely unreal. With the help of a local crematorium, he investigates and discovers a truth too horrifying to believe: A facility in another state has not been disposing of bodies properly, instead scattering them all around the grounds.

Little does Brockton know that his research is about to collide with reality—with the force of a lit match meeting spilled gasoline. En route to trial, his nemesis, medical examiner Garland Hamilton, has escaped from custody. What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse, played for the ultimate stakes: Brockton's own life. With help from his loyal graduate assistant, Miranda, and ace criminalist Art Bohanan, Brockton eventually tracks Hamilton, but when the police arrive, they find only a smoldering ruin. Sifting through the ashes, Brockton finds the incinerated remains of Hamilton . . . or does he? The answer—along with Brockton's ultimate test—comes in a searing moment of truth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The lack of a strong central plot undercuts the third forensic thriller by bestseller Bass, the team of Dr. Bill Bass, founder of Tennessee's world-renowned Body Farm, and journalist Jon Jefferson (after 2007's Flesh and Bone). Two cases occupy Dr. Bass's fictional alter ego, Dr. Bill Brockton-the death of Mary Latham, a 47-year-old Knoxville native, whose charred remains were found in a burned-out car, and a disreputable Georgia crematorium that simply dumped bodies on its grounds. These probes soon take a backseat to a cat-and-mouse game with the doctor's arch nemesis, Garland Hamilton, who tried to frame him for murder in Flesh and Bone. When Hamilton escapes from incarceration before going to trial, Brockton must keep looking over his shoulder. While a smattering of Bass's trademark authentic forensic detail lifts this main narrative thread, a more focused look at a single case might have made the novel a better read. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

As this third thriller (after Carved in Boneand Flesh and Bone) by the pseudonymous Bass (the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass, forensic anthropologist and founder of University of Tennessee's Body Farm, and science writer Jon Jefferson) opens, Bill Brockton is back at work on the Body Farm after the recent murder of his lover and an attempt on his own life. The killer, Garland Hamilton, nurses a fanatical grudge against Brockton. Before his trial begins, Hamilton escapes and is presumed to have died in a mountain cabin fire. In the meantime, Brockton uses his skills and those of his graduate student Miranda in various unrelated cases, including that of a Georgia crematorium stacking bodies in the woods and providing fake ashes to the families. The authors juggle several quickly moving narratives until the final confrontation between Brockton and his nemesis. Buy wherever forensic fiction is popular, and be aware of several graphic scenes and descriptions. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/15/07.]
—A.J. Wright

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Booklist
“[A] fine thriller...this third installment is the best of a steadily improving series, but it’s doubtful we’ve seen the finest moments yet.”
Charlotte Observer
“A superb mystery...written with more flair and literary sensibility than anything by John Grisham.”
USA Today
“[A] unique corpse, solid science, quirky humor and a lovable protagonist.”
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!”
Stephen White
“CARVED IN BONE introduces a captivating protagonist and is full of obscure, fascinating forensics. [A] fine new talent.”
Kathy Reichs
“Carved in Bone brims with terrific forensic detail . . . the real deal.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061468476
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/5/2008
  • Series: Body Farm Series , #3
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hours
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. Dr. Bass, a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, is the creator of the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, widely known as the Body Farm. He is the author or coauthor of more than two hundred scientific publications, as well as a critically acclaimed memoir about his career at the Body Farm, Death's Acre. Dr. Bass is also a dedicated teacher, honored as U.S. Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. His writings have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, and Popular Science and broadcast on National Public Radio. The coauthor of Death's Acre, he is also the writer and producer of two highly rated National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm.

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Read an Excerpt

The Devil's Bones
A Novel

Chapter One

The last drop of daylight was fading from the western sky—a draining that seemed more a suffocation than a sunset, a final faint gasp as the day died of heatstroke. To the east, a dull copper moon, just on the downhill side of full, struggled above the crest of the Great Smoky Mountains. From where I stood, in a ridgetop pasture above the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers—above the headwaters of the Tennessee—I had a ringside view of the demise of the day and the wavering birth of the night.

Just below the ridge, across the river on Dickinson Island, the lights of the Island Home Airport winked on, etching the runway's perimeter in white and the taxiway in cobalt blue. The main landmarks of downtown Knoxville shimmered a few miles farther downstream—two tall office towers, a wedge-shaped Mayan-looking Marriott, the high bridges spanning the river, and the looming waterfront complex of Baptist Hospital. A mile beyond those, as the fish swims, lay the University of Tennessee campus and Neyland Stadium, where the UT Volunteers packed in a hundred thousand football fans every game. Football season would kick off with a night game in three weeks, and the stadium's lights were ablaze tonight, in some sort of preseason scrimmage against the darkness. The lights loomed high above the field; a series of additions to the stadium—an upper deck and skyboxes—had taken the structure higher and higher into the sky; another expansion or two and Neyland Stadium would be the city's tallest skyscraper. The lights themselves were almost blinding, even at this distance, but thewater softened their reflection to quicksilver, turning the Tennessee into a dazzling, incandescent version of Moon River. It was stunning, and I couldn't help thinking that even on an off-season night Neyland Stadium was still the tail that wagged Knoxville.

Tucked beneath the stadium, along a curving corridor that echoed its ellipse, was UT's Anthropology Department, which I'd spent twenty-five years building from a small undergraduate major to one of the world's leading Ph.D. programs. A quarter mile long and one room wide, Anthropology occupied the outer side of the stadium's dim, windowless second-floor hallway. Mercifully, the classrooms and labs and graduate-student offices did possess windows, though the view was a bizarre and grimy one, consisting mainly of girders and cross braces—the framework supporting those hundred thousand foot-stomping football fans in the bleachers, keeping them from crashing down amid the countless human bones shelved beneath them.

Many of the bones catalogued in the bowels of Neyland Stadium had arrived by way of the Anthropology Research Facility—the Body Farm—a three-acre patch of wooded hillside behind UT Medical Center. At any given moment, a hundred human corpses were progressing from fresh body to bare bones there, helped along by legions of bacteria and bugs, plus the occasional marauding raccoon or possum or skunk. By studying the events and the timing as bodies decomposed under a multitude of experimental conditions—nude bodies, clothed bodies, buried bodies, submerged bodies, fat bodies, thin bodies, bodies in cars and in sheds and in rolls of scrap carpeting—my graduate students and colleagues and I had bootstrapped the Body Farm into the world's leading source of experimental data on both what happens to bodies after death and when it happens. Our body of research, so to speak, allowed us to pinpoint time since death with increasing precision. As a result, any time police—police anywhere—asked for help solving a real-world murder, we could check the weather data, assess the degree of decomposition, and give an accurate estimate of when the person had been killed.

Tonight would yield a bit more data to the scientific literature and a few hundred more bones to the collection. We were conducting this experiment miles from the Body Farm, but I had brought the Farm with me—two of its inhabitants anyhow—to this isolated pasture. I couldn't conduct tonight's research so close to downtown, the UT campus, and the hospital. I needed distance, darkness, and privacy for what I was about to do.

I turned my gaze from the city's glow and studied the two cars nestled in the high grass nearby. In the faint light, it was hard to tell they were rusted-out hulks. It was also difficult to discern that the two figures behind the steering wheels were corpses: wrecked bodies driving wrecked cars, on what was about to become a road trip to hell.

The tow-truck driver who had brought the vehicles out to the UT Ag farm a few hours before—minus their cadaverous drivers—clearly thought I was crazy. "Most times," he'd said, "I'm hauling cars like this to the junkyard, not from the junkyard."

I smiled. "It's an agricultural experiment," I'd said. "We're transplanting wrecks to see if a new junkyard takes root."

"Oh, it'll take root all right," he said. "I guaran-damn-tee you. Word gets out there's a new dump here, you'll have you a bumper crop of cars and trucks and warshin' machines before you know it." He spit a ropy stream of tobacco juice, which rolled across the dirt at his feet and then quivered dustily for a moment. "Shit, I know all kinds of folks be glad to help with that experiment."

I laughed. "Thanks anyhow," I said. "Actually, I lied. We are doing an experiment, but it's not agricultural, it's forensic. We're going to cremate a couple of bodies in these cars and study the burned bones."

He eyed me suspiciously, as if I might be about to enlist him forcibly as one of the research subjects, but then his face broke into a leathery grin. "Aw, hell, you're that bone-detective guy, ain't you? Dr. Bodkin?"

"Brockton"— I smiled again—"but that's close enough."

"I knew you looked familiar. My wife's a big fan of all them forensic shows on TV. She talks about donating her body to you'uns. But I don't think I could hardly handle that."

The Devil's Bones
A Novel
. Copyright © by Jefferson Bass. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 151 )
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(69)

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(51)

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(20)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 152 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2008

    Not the best, but still strong

    While The Devil's Bones, the third forensic thriller by two-person authorial team Jefferson Bass, does not quite live up to the high standard set by previous entries, it's still a compelling read. This time, a pair of cases challenge Dr. Bill Brockton's investigative acumen: the death of a woman whose charred remains are discovered in a burned-out car, and a shady Georgia crematorium with some really unconscionable business practiced. If all that weren't enough, the nefarious Garland Hamilton (last seen in 2007's Flesh and Bone) shows up to cause more trouble. Some reviewers have complained that Bass muddied the plot of this mystery by throwing in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and that's a valid complaint. By way of comparison, my favorite new thriller of '08 - Crimson Orgy by Austin Williams - weaves a tight narrative that grows more claustrophobic and suspenseful with each chapter. The Devil's Bones could arguably have benefited from some tightening, but fans of the series will still want to give this one a look.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Boo

    You might know harriet klausner has to come along a stick her nose in and ruin this book. Come on bn, when are you ever going to do something to this egotistical plot spoiling poster? She consistently reveals every detail including the ending of every book she reports. Please ban her, delete all her posts and spare us from her plot spoilers. I cannot tell you how many books she has lost you sales on from ruined plot spoilers.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Soooo entertaining!

    Another superb Jefferson Bass

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2011

    Best one yet!

    This book was so captivating and irresistable that I read it virtually nonstop. My favorite one thus far, I cannot wait to download and read the next one!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Forensics

    You have to love or at least like forensics to read these stories. They are full of information related to the "body farm" in Tennessee. I find this place fascinating and the work they do there just as fascinating. Haven taken the course offered at one time through Barnes and Noble gave me a sneak peek into the thinking of the people behind the CSI's and what they do as well as watching it on television but.... these books, all three give you a whole new look into the working of a pathologist and exactly what is involved in their work. Well written, funny, and the characters are believable. I love these books and hope there will be more in the series.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    Loved this book

    I had read the fifth book first and just loved it. Great characters, some of the most detailed and unique I've ever seen. The stories are complex, multifaceted, and if you like forensic stories, Patricia Cornwell, autopsies, murder investigations, etc, then this is a must for you. Extreme technical accuracy. When we read book #5, I went out and bought the first four in the series and my wife and I devoured them one by one. It is not necessary to read them in sequence, but it will help as some events and characters are referred to downstream and come into play in subsequent stories (in a peripheral way). Start with Carved in Bone (#1), then Flesh & Bone, The Devil's Bones, Bones of Betrayal, The Bone Thief, then The Bone Yard (hardback as I write this). You won't be disappointed!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2011

    I recommend

    This is the first time I have read any of Jefferson Bass' books and I really enjoyed it. I have ordered the next two books in this series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    loved it

    great series!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Thrilling Read

    This book is great, especially if you enjoy a scientific base to your average murder mystery. Although it is part of a series, it has many stand alone qualities; I have not read Jefferson Bass' other books, and this was still completely understandable. It is a great book for all forensic anthropology enthusiasts!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "The Devil's Bones"

    An excellent book. Jefferson Bass' series is wonderfully written and engrossing. Excellent characters and intriguing murders.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2008

    Bass throws in too many bones

    In this third 'Body Farm' thriller, Jefferson Bass juggles three different plotlines, and the result is a mystery that is diluted by one too many of them. Not only does the series' hero, forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton, have two different cases to investigate, he's also dealing with the before-trial escape of his nemesis, former medical examiner Garland Hamilton, who murdered Brockton's lover and then tried to frame him in 'Flesh and Bone'. Hamilton's body is eventually discovered in the smoking ruin of a cabin where he was hiding out, but Brockton is not so sure it's him. Meanwhile, the charred remains of a woman named Mary Latham have been found in a burned-out car, and an out-of-state crematorium has apparently simply dumped the bodies of it's customers' loved ones instead of properly cremating them. I think 'The Devil's Bones' would have been a lot stronger if Bass had concentrated on the Hamilton storyline, throwing more twists and turns in that direction, while giving forensics fans something to chew on with a tighter Latham investigation and ditching the crematorium subplot entirely. Still, this is a step up (in my opinion) from the recent Scarpetta novels, not to mention the less-than-compelling Temperance Brennan books.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2014

    Another hit in the Bone Farm series

    Another hit in the Bone Farm series

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    reliably fun

    Not great, but good.

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  • Posted October 4, 2013

    Love

    I love these books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Kept me on the edge of my seat!

    Great story. Following the characters through yet another mystery kept the mind engaged.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    .

    .

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2013

    Great genre fiction

    Look, if I can't wait to get back to the book (compelling read), know the characters by the end, and have learned something (because the accuracy of the details of the things I do know.make me trust those that I don't), then the book succeeds. But if you are not interested in or made squeamish by forensic anthropology this book may not suit you. But if you are fascinated by it and don't need romance or sex to intrude you too might find this a great entry into the genre (and I mean that in a good way).

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  • Posted May 6, 2012

    The second book I read by JeffersonBass and I loved it as much a

    The second book I read by JeffersonBass and I loved it as much as the first. Well written. One of those books that is not a good idea to start reading before bed (like I did) because the next thing you know your alarm is going off and you still haven't slept because you are still reading the book... and you have to get ready for work but you just have to know wht it about to happen...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2012

    Great

    Enjoyed this very much.

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  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    I loved reading this one! It was full of suspense and thrills to keep me turning the pages!

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