Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Bone Yard: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass

The Bone Yard: A Body Farm Novel
The Bone Yard: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass

The blurb:
The onset of summer brings predictably steamy weather to the Body Farm, Dr. Bill Brockton's human-decomposition research facility at the University of Tennessee.  But Brockton's about to get more heat than he's bargained for when Angie St. Claire, a forensic analyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, asks him to help prove that her sister's death was not suicide, but murder.

Brockton's quick consulting trip take a long, harrowing detour when bones begin turning up amid the pines and live oaks of the Florida panhandle.  Two adolescent skulls -- ravaged by time and animals,
but bearing the telltale signs of lethal fractures - send Brockton, Angie, and Special Agent Stu Vickery on a search for the long-lost victims.  The quest leads them to the ruins of the North Florida Boys' Reformatory, a notorious juvenile detention facility that met a fiery end more than 40 years ago.

Guided by the discovery of a diary kept by one of the school's young "students," Brockton's team finds a cluster of shallow graves, all of them containing the bones of boys who suffer violent deaths. The graves confirm one of the diary's grim claims: that one wrong move could land a boy in the Bone Yard.  But as the investigation expands, it encounters opposition from the local sheriff, who's less than delighted to find forensic experts from the state capital and the Body Farm digging up dirt in his country.

As Brockon and his team close in on the truth, they find skeletons in some surprisingly prominent closets. . . and they learn that the ghosts of the past pose perilous consequences in the present. 

The Bone Yard drew me in from the first chapter.  Not surprisingly,  Jonathan Bass paints a clear and authentic picture of the research facility.  After all, Dr. Bill Bass is an expert in forensic anthropology and created The Body Farm in University of Tennessee while Dr. Jon Jefferson wrote and produced two films on the facility.  I learned a bit about forensic pathology, which made the book even more enjoyable. 

As heroes go, Dr Bill Brockton is an enjoyable one to follow.  An acknowledged expert in his field, he is generous with his time and a dedicated teacher.  He is insatiably curious and tenacious.  He looks for puzzles and won't rest until he solves them.  He's a hero to root for.   When he comes across the bones that reveal disturbing cruelty to young children, he responds the way that we wish we could, the way we wish people did in real life.  He focuses everything on finding out more about these children, solving the mystery of their death and bringing their attackers to justice.    The story is engrossing - with sympathetic characters,  red herrings, plot twists, and a satisfying ending.  I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend The Bone Yard.

ISBN-10: 0061806781 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: William Morrow (March 8, 2011), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Jonathan Bass is the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson.  Dr. Bass, a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility - the Body Farm - a quarter century ago.  He is the author or coauthor of more than 200 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 National 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.  Learn more at

William Morrow is sponsoring a giveaway of 5 copies of The Body Farm by Jefferson Bass.  More details on the giveaway to follow. A big thanks to William Morrow for generously sponsoring the giveaway!

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