Carved in Bone (Body Farm Series #1)

Carved in Bone (Body Farm Series #1)

by Jefferson Bass

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There is a patch of ground in Tennessee dedicated to the science of death, where human remains lie exposed to be studied for their secrets. The real-life scientist who founded the "Body Farm" has broken cold cases and revolutionized forensics . . . and now he spins an astonishing tale inspired by his own experiences.

Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he's being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment's unique chemistry. But Brockton's investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won't forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton's own guilt—and the dangerous hostility of bitter enemies determined to see him fail . . . by any means necessary.

With Fascinating Insider Information on the Body Farm!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061804885
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Series: Body Farm Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 14,738
File size: 673 KB

About 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.

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?"


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.

Table of Contents

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.”

Customer Reviews

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Carved in Bone (Body Farm Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1632 reviews.
Cuchillo More than 1 year ago
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!
guitchess More than 1 year ago
Carved In Bone is what every novel should be, a good story. Told in a linear, detailed fashion, this story does not leave you with unanswered questions or subplots that seem to veer off and dissipate. It does, however, have twists and turns that keep the story from being bland and lifeless. Carved In Bone also has enough technical detail about bodies and the investigation process to assure the reader that the authors are quite knowledgeable in their studied profession, which leaves the reader to wonder which details are from actual investigations. One might wonder, after reading my previous statements, why I would only rate this novel at three stars. In my opinion, the mediocre rating of this book stems from one flaw, over simplicity, that feeds other flaws, simple characters and simple plot. Most characters in a novel are supposed to be simple. Their simplicity contrasts the complexity of the hero/heroin. However, in Carved In Bone, the main character is the most boring in the story. Perhaps this trait was intentional to make him more identifiable to the reader, but it made me wish the book was wrote in 3rd person rather than his point of view so I could learn more about the other, more interesting characters. It felt as though a highly intelligent professional character was "dumbed down" to keep the reader from disconnecting. The plot, while a satisfying story, could have used more complexity. A simple, easy to follow story may be a bit boring those readers that are accustomed to mystery/crime novels. A little heavier use of foreshadowing and flashbacks would have seasoned this one nicely. Just my thoughts.
TexasStarVA More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book, and it did have some exciting scenes in it. I also enjoyed learning some science behind it. However, there were two scenes that I found a bit unrealistic. The first is when Dr. Bill is looking for something during a re-autopsy, gets frustrated and uses his gloved hands to poke around the organ bag. (Hello, why not use the x-ray machine to see if it's even in the bag first...) The biggest No They Didn't is when Dr. Bill conducts a crime scene investigation with help from his undergrad and grad students. Seriously, a capital murder scene and there are NO professional CSIs in the entire state of TN who can work it? (so Hollywood!) Other than that, I enjoyed the book and would be interested in seeing more from this expert writing duo.
numb3rsgirl More than 1 year ago
I love all the books in this series. They are very well written forensic mysteries. If you love CSI, Bones, or any of the other "dead-body" tv shows, you will love this series of books!!
annemfreitas More than 1 year ago
For a first book, Carved in Bone has a great mix of information, murder, and edge-of-your-seat suspense. I downloaded the NOOKbook even though I had head the paperback... and I read it again on my nook. I look forward to downloading more from Bas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a very big reader. I always have to have something to read. So when i was searching for a new series i stumbled upon this one and decided to take a chance and read it. Im glad i did. Its very well written. Im now halfway through book 2 in the series and im exited to see what happens next! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book from the beginning. I finished it within two days. I agree with another poster- there were some moments that were not really believable, but other information that made me think about the way we study human life and death. Very interesting- I would recommend reading this book for enjoyment.
creedmspiggy More than 1 year ago
This book was AWESOME!!!! Loved it. I loved Dr. Bass' classes in college and this book series was the best Christmas present ever :) Could not put my nook down finished it in 2 days and that was with 4 kids running around the house on Christmas.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Actually, the name of the site at the University of Tennessee is the Anthropology Research Facility, but it's known to the world as 'Body Farm,' a nickname chosen by a Tennessee FBI agent and made famous by Patricia Cornwell's popular crime novel. The facility, a three acre site devoted to postmortem-decay research, was founded some 25 years ago by Dr. Bill Bass, renowned for his expertise in forensic anthropology. Now, in addition to his studies and the assistance he gives to law enforcement officials, Dr. Bass has teamed with journalist/filmmaker Jon Jefferson to pen a novel so loaded with forensic detail that some may decide to sleep with the lights on. This writing team wastes no time in snagging readers with a prologue detailing protagonist Bill Brockton's probing of a corpse with a hunting knife. After locating a space just behind the heart's lower chambers, '...I set the tip of the hunting knife there¿it snagged in the soft flesh¿then leaned in and began to push. It took more force than I'd expected......As my victim jerked and skidded from the force, a rib broke with the sound of a green tree branch splintering.' Definitely not a story for the squeamish or weak of heart. The graphic prologue is fair warning of descriptions to come as Brockton is called upon by Cooke County's sheriff Tom Kitchings to accompany him to a remote cave hidden in the Appalachian Mountains. This is a trip fraught with peril for Brockton as he suffers from vertigo and motion sickness. Nonetheless, his malaise is forgotten when he enters the cave and finds a mummified body on a rock ledge. Of course, there are many questions: is it a male or female? How long has the body been there and how did he/she die? Those familiar with forensic science will find much in Brockton's descriptions of adipocere (grave wax) which, evidently, leaves a corpse resembling a wax museum figure. The body is returned to the Body Farm, and the research begins. It's a challenge that both intrigues and baffles Brockton as even with his wide experience he has never seen anything like this before. Both affable and curious Brockton enjoys a challenge, but his investigation into this person's death is not all welcome among the residents of Appalachia, plus a jealous medical examiner throws roadblocks at every turn. In addition, Sheriff Kitchings, the all-powerful, chooses not to cooperate. Eventually, we learn of a long ago but not forgotten feud among the mountain people, but what really sets the narrative apart is copious forensic detail. Fans of this genre of crime fiction won't want to miss a word others may shiver and shudder a bit. - Gail Cooke
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
Interesting read. Those who love forensic science will enjoy this one. Good character development. Great and accurate medical detail. Contains violence and some animal abuse. A rather unexpected twist at the end. I will be reading more of this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow so good to read
jenmurph21 More than 1 year ago
I got this when it was free and I am impressed. It's not something I'd normall read but I liked this book. Those into forensics would enjoy this book I think. Likeable characters and a good storyline. A good book and I just might read the other "Body Farm" books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a solid free nookbook read, definitely worth more than both the price I didn't pay in money ($0)and the price I paid in time (a few hours). The terminology of forensics used was clearly explained for the non-anthropologist reader. You cannot go wrong as it is free and entertaining. There are several books in this series; no doubt Barnes & Noble offered this one gratis to lure readers into buying the others (which I haven't read). I may read more in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly enjoyed story! Even read most of gruesome forensic details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read enjoy the body farm series!
PermaSwooned on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is written by the man who founded "The Body Farm" at the University of Tennessee. I read about it in "Stiff", and it was fascinating stuff. The mystery is good, the plotting is good, the characters are interesting, although I think the dialogue doesn't flow very well. Still, I like forensic science books, and a body in a cave that had turned to soap was pretty cool.
readerbynight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is two years since Dr. Bill Brockton's wife Kathleen died, and he is still immersed in grief and guilt. Written in the first person, the reader immediately becomes connected with the character. His only life in the past two years has been devoted to his work as a Forensic Anthropologist and Anthropology professor. Now, he has been called upon to assist his nemesis as an expert witness in proving a client innocent of a murder for which Bill believes he was mistakenly sentenced.In the meantime, a long-dead body has been discovered in a cave, bringing with it a some serious questions. Dr. Brockton is brought in by the Sheriff to assist in the case, which becomes more tricky as the investigation goes on, even though the body is quickly identified. The very core of the County is about to be turned upside-down.I love the dialogues, whichever of the two authors who make up Jefferson Bass does the humour I'd certainly like to meet. The "gallows" humour that keeps our sanity when we live with trauma or see so much of it is very well done. I also enjoyed the dialogue including forensic anthropologist characters from other authors' series as real people our protagonist knows, even in one case speaking of a visit from the author of the Temperance Brennan series, Kathy Reichs, touring the Body Farm. These, along with wonderful characterizations, are some of the things that make Bass' books so believeable. There are lots of suspects, lots of twists and turns, dead ends, and a double whammy to hit the reader toward the end of the book, but even that isn't the last surprise. So what are we left with? A satisfying lead into the beginning of what promises to be a continuing adventure into the heart, soul and mystery of crime-solving forensic anthropology.
david.ww1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book reads like an episode of CSI. Solid story, well produced, and enjoyable, but not fantastic. The protagonist was likeable, but not one hundred percent believeable. Worth buying in paperback or as an ebook, or picking it up at your library.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first in the Body Farm novels. The Body Farm is a real place, where scientists study body decomposition in order to improve forensics. The series is written by Jefferson Bass, who is in charge of the Body Farm.Dr. Bill Brockton, head of the Body Farm, is called in to the case of a woman's body found in a cave in rural Cooke County, Tennessee. Brockton becomes deeply involved in the case, which grows difficult when it seems the villains are more trustworthy than the law enforcement.Brockton is a good character, though perhaps too eager to put himself in danger. It is always fun to read a story like this where you know the background is done right, and some of the stories are drawn from life. I plan to read others in the series.
missmath144 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Writer Jon Jefferson and forensic anthropologist Dr. Bass of the Body Farm (working together under the pseudonym Jefferson Bass) write a good tale, while at the same time teaching the reader about forensics. Although I already knew much of what they explained in the book (as to forensics), their explanations were concise and didn't interfere with the flow of the story, even where you did already know a given piece of information, and there were many tidbits of information I didn't already know and certainly appreciated learning. But the learning part was subtly included within an interesting story. A body is found, and it turns out to be a young woman who was murdered 30 years before and well preserved in a cave, due to all the edipocure that formed around her entire body. The story reveals and revolves around the local politics, dialect and culture of Cooke County, Tennessee. While some of the characters are very steotypical, others are complicated, interesting characters -- worth getting to know.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dr. Bill Brockton, anthropologist, is called in to a case in a backwoods town of Tennessee where a woman's body has been found, wonderfully preserved, in a cave. What Bill doesn't realize is that he is getting himself into a heap of trouble involving a long standing feud between two families, a corrupt sheriff's department, Big Jim (a backwoods gangster), and someone who doesn't want him poking his nose into any of this. Along with his policeman friend, Art, these two middle aged men walk write into the middle of a very dangerous and sorrowful tale.Dr. Bill and his buddy, Art, are about two of the best detectives I've met in my long list of mystery reading. Bill is the main character, while Art comes along for the ride here and there. They have an equal relationship with neither one being the boss as in classic pairings of men detectives (Holmes/Watson etc.). These two guys have a running commentary whenever they are together that is so funny. They love puns and telling jokes and are very Southern. In fact, the book itself was as Southern as it gets and I just loved the uniqueness of a mystery taking place in this setting.The mystery was well-written, and while I had my ideas early on the author(s) twisted things up whenever I thought I'd got the case solved. The forensics were fabulous, enough detail without getting boring for the layman and just a bit gruesome to keep it fun but certainly nowhere near as gory as other authors I'm used to reading. I think I enjoyed this book so much just because it was so much fun. The characters, the setting and the ride all perfectly meshed into one very fun and satisfying mystery. I will definitely read the next two books and be keeping up with this series.
Scrabblenut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel by the team of two people who make up Jefferson Bass. I had read it a few years previously but it was good enough to read again (which I rarely do), since I wanted to be reminded what happened in this book before I read the sequels. The forensic detail is fascinating as the story is told by the actual scientists who set up the body farm in Tennessee. A body is found in a cave, and it has completely turned to "grave wax". It turns out to be the body of a pregnant woman who disappeared 30 years ago. The search for answers takes Bill Brockton into backwoods Tennessee. There is a lot of humour in the book as well as the suspense and forensic puzzles.
ireed110 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author, Jefferson Bass, is actually two men working together - Jon Jefferson, a journalist, and Dr Bill Bass of Tennessee Body Farm fame. I'm admitting right up front that it was the link to the Body Farm that drew me to this book. So let me warn those seeking an inside peek at the Body Farm and it's workings - there's not too much of that here. This book is a little bit "bait and switchy" in that respect. It is, however, a good middle-of-the-road mystery novel with a forensic/anthropological bent. The protagonist, Dr Bill Brockton, has the same job as Dr Bill Bass, Body Farm and all, and has been asked to help in the investigation of a murder case out in the hills. He helps more than a forensic anthropologist in the real world might, I think, but there wouldn't be a story if he didn't , would there. I figured out the whodunnit part before he did, too, but he was limited by the facts given him.I've been assigned the second novel in this series for my "Go Review that Book" group -- it will be interesting to see how the character grows. First novels in a series are rarely the best, and I'm cutting this team some slack with that in mind. There's a lot of promise here.
swl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Terrific debut novel, compelling plot, fascinating setting - but my favorite element was the characters. Do these guys nail 'em or what? I don't believe I've ever read a scene set at a cockfight, but I not only felt I was there, I wasn't so sure I minded. Looking forward to more visits to this wonderful fictional world.On the negative side: the extensive bone/flesh/body discussions, which may appeal to some, got a little dull after a while. Paraphrase a little, guys, I promise I'll still be impressed. Also, the plot was far less interesting, and certainly less fresh, than the rest of the book. I'd love to see a plot built on the more remote corners of human wrongdoing, a la Elizabeth George. These guys could pull it off, I'll bet.A final note: I didn't realize until well into the book that the author is actually a writing team, but I had noticed a little uneven-ness in style. Just a little, mostly where the delicious colorful repartee scenes are interspersed with drier stuff. I've always doubted team writing, but in this case there's little not to like.
LeHack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I purchased this in NYC to have something to read on the train. If you like Kathy Reich's books or Patricia Cornwell you will definitely enjoy this book. Setting is the Bone Farm in Tennessee. Some of the forensic descriptions are a bit gruesome (avoid at mealtimes!). Recommend.