There is a bewildering, frustrating quality in Botha's crackling account of a quirky, maverick forensics artist, Frank Bender, and his largely successful efforts in facial reconstruction of murder victims. The steady, no-nonsense approach of the author (Mongo: Adventures in Trash ) is marred by the herky-jerky sequences of the narrative as he switches from Bender's hit-and-miss past triumphs to a monumental murder case south of the border in the sordid Mexican area near Ciudad Juárez, where about 400 women have been raped, tortured and killed. National and international recognition of Bender's uncanny skill grows, but the psychological toll wears on his home life and his interaction with authorities. What is extraordinary is Botha's writing, with his unerring depiction of Bender's painstaking work and the eventual unraveling of the brutal crimes it solves. Although Bender is not successful with every case, including the epic Mexican serial killings, the tales in this book accurately capture the dark motives and complexities of senseless murder, and even the most savvy true-crime reader will not be able to resist the author's insightful storytelling. 16 pages of photos. (May 13)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Girl with the Crooked Noseby Ted Botha
In The Girl with the Crooked Nose, Ted Botha tells the absorbing story of Frank Bender, a gifted, self-taught artist who can bring back the dead and the vanished through a unique, macabre sculpting talent. Bender has been the key to solving at least nine murders and tracking down numerous criminals. Then he is called upon to tackle the most challenging and/i>… See more details below
In The Girl with the Crooked Nose, Ted Botha tells the absorbing story of Frank Bender, a gifted, self-taught artist who can bring back the dead and the vanished through a unique, macabre sculpting talent. Bender has been the key to solving at least nine murders and tracking down numerous criminals. Then he is called upon to tackle the most challenging and bizarre case of his career.
Someone is killing the young women of Juarez. Since 1993, the decomposing bodies of as many as four hundred victims, known as feminicidios, have been found in the desert surrounding this gritty Mexican border town. In 2003, prodded by local political pressure and international attention, the Mexican authorities turn to the United States to help solve these horrific crimes. The man they turn to is Bender.
Through breathtakingly realistic sculptures, Bender reconstructs the faces of unknown murder victims or fugitives whose appearances are certain to have changed over years on the run. The busts are based in part on the painstaking application of forensic science to fleshless human skulls and in part on deep intuition, an uncanny ability to discern not only a missing face but also the personality behind it.
Arriving in Mexico, Bender works in secrecy, in a culture of corruption and casual violence where the line between criminals and law enforcement is blurry, braving anonymous threats and sinister coincidences to give eight skulls back their faces and, hopefully, their histories. Drawn to one skull in particular–"The Girl With the Crooked Nose"–Bender gradually comes to suspect that perhaps he is not meant to succeed, and that the true solution to the mystery of the feminicidios is far more terrible than anyone has dared to imagine.
Ted Botha brilliantly weaves Bender’s story–the cases he has solved, the intricacies of his art, the colorful characters he encounters, and the personal cost of his strange obsession–with the chilling story of the Juarez investigation. With a conclusion as shocking as its story is gripping, The Girl with the Crooked Nose will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
“…[a] crackling account of a quirky, maverick forensics artist, Frank Bender, and his largely successful efforts in facial reconstruction of murder victims…. extraordinary is Botha's writing, with his unerring depiction of Bender's painstaking work and the eventual unraveling of the brutal crimes it solves…. the tales in this book accurately capture the dark motives and complexities of senseless murder, and even the most savvy true-crime reader will not be able to resist the author's insightful storytelling."--Publishers Weekly
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Read an ExcerptThe Girl with the Crooked Nose
A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry
By Ted Botha Random House
Copyright © 2008 Ted Botha
All right reserved.
Frank was used to the bad dreams. They came with the strange hours
and the heads. It was a trio that he had learned to live with ever since
the murder of Anna Duval.
The dreams returned at random, like old acquaintances—the man
hanging in the tree, the boy tied up and strangled and burnt and shot
through the temple, the man cut in half by a train—especially when he
was working on a new case.
It was very early. He had come to bed only at two A.M., after working
on a skull that he had just gotten from the New York police. He could
hear Jan breathing faintly next to him. Boy lay at his feet while Guy, black
and haughty, was barely visible on top of the video recorder in the corner,
his eyes the only thing that gave him away.
Frank knocked his knee against the side table as he got up. Boy shifted
slightly and then settled back into place. Frank turned to see if he had
woken Jan, but she hadn’t moved.
He pulled on a pair of boxer shorts. He looked good for a man who
had just turned sixty-two—a flat hard stomach from years of exercising
his abs by hanging off the sofa, skin tanned from cycling along the banks
of the Schuylkill River, an eagle tattoo on his sinewyleft forearm that
he’d gotten in the navy. He resembled the English actor Patrick Stewart
with a goatee, or, in his more serious moments, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
Over the years he had cultivated a habit of trying to appear mysterious
by bending his head forward slightly so that he looked at a person
through his eyebrows. If it worked on men, it made women uncomfortable.
But as soon as he smiled, the jig was up. His mischievous grin was
infectious, and most people couldn’t help liking him.
He had immortalized the grin in a life-size self-portrait that he’d
painted several years earlier. Anyone standing close enough to it would
see the silver tooth near his upper right incisor—that is, if they weren’t
first struck by another part of his anatomy. Not only was Frank naked,
but he had done his penis in 3-D.
The unframed painting was propped up against a wall near the entrance
to his studio door, which meant that anyone who came in—
friends, FBI agents, artists, journalists, policemen, criminal profilers,
U.S. Marshals, even his grandchildren—had no choice but to see Frank
and his penis. It was as much a joke as his statement to the world: Here I
am. Take me or leave me.
Cocked head, wide grin, upper right incisor glinting.
Frank walked from the bedroom into the studio, which was flooded
by a full moon shining through the skylight. The luminescence lit up the
rows of heads that either looked down from several shelves along the
eastern wall or stared up from the floor, at least three dozen bodyless
saints and devils.
Yvonne Davi took up a corner near Rosella Atkinson, who was next to
James Kilgore, the last member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Ira
Einhorn was situated comfortably far from Brad Bishop and the 5,300-
year-old man. Near the front of the studio was the icy-eyed Hans
Vorhauer, a version of whom Frank had done in concrete to show off the
man’s pitted skin. John List hid behind Anna Duval, who looked slightly
shocked under her ten-dollar wig, as if Frank had sculpted her a split second
before the bullets had entered the back of her head.
Some of the busts were unpainted, identified even before Frank had a
chance to add their skin tone or the color of their corneas. Other busts
had almost too much color, like the girl with green eyes, sculpted when
National Geographic was trying to track down the peasant from
Afghanistan who had become one of its most famous cover girls.
The heads that hadn’t been identified—at least not yet, or not that
Frank knew of—were usually known by an epithet that he or the police
had given them, one that came with the manner or location of their
death. The Boy in the Bag. The Girl in the Sewer. The Burnt Boy. The
Girl in the Well. The Man in the Dumpster.
The victim Frank had dreamed about tonight, The Girl in the
Steamer Trunk, was inconspicuous between all the others on the shelves,
smaller, darker. She had braids that Vanessa had helped him with. Her
body had been found dumped under a Philadelphia bridge in the winter
Excerpted from The Girl with the Crooked Nose by Ted Botha Copyright © 2008 by Ted Botha. Excerpted by permission.
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