Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass

Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass
A Body Farm Mystery

William Morrow (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-075983-6 (0060759836)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-075983-4 (9780060759834)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the world-famous Body Farm at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is hard at work on a troubling new case. A young man's battered body has been found in nearby Chattanooga, and it's up to the talented Dr. Brockton to assemble the pieces of the forensic puzzle. Brockton is brought into the case by the rising star of the state's medical examiners, Jess Carter.

Just as they're on the verge of breaking the case open, events take a terrifying turn. Brockton has re-created the Chattanooga death scene at the Body Farm, but a killer tampers with it in a shocking way: placing another corpse at the setting, confusing authorities and putting Brockton's career and life in jeopardy. Soon Brockton himself is accused of the horrific new crime, and the once-beloved professor becomes an outcast. As the net around him tightens, Brockton must use all of his forensic skills to prove his own innocence . . . before he ends up behind bars with some of the very killers he's helped to convict.

Review: Dr. Bill Brockton takes on the role of the victim in Flesh and Bone, the second mystery in the Body Farm series by Jefferson Bass (co-authors Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson).

While working on a case with Chattanooga medical examiner Jess Carter, Brockton suddenly finds himself accused of a gruesome murder. His truck was videotaped entering the Body Farm just prior to when and where the victim was found, and forensic evidence conclusively links Brockton with the victim. Hiring his sometime legal adversary but arguably the most successful defense attorney in town as his lawyer, Brockton manages to stay out of jail. Suspended by the university, unable to work on any cases, and convinced that the authorities aren't looking for the real killer, he sets out to prove his innocence with the assistance of a friend in the police department.

Flesh and Bone is an entertaining mystery, even considering the descriptions of dead and decaying bodies that are included every chapter or so. Consider this, reasonably typical, passage: "The head had been simmering for three days down in the Annex before I took it out of the kettle for good. The hot water, bleach, Biz, Downy, and Adolph's Meat Tenderizer had doen their work well: the remaining bits of tissue scrubbed off easily with a toothbrush; the bone had lightened to a deep ivory; and the aroma steaming off of it was like fresh laundry." Of course, he goes on to qualify the definition of "fresh". Since the Body Farm is a real place, and Dr. Bill Brockton is based on a real person (one of the co-authors), there are a lot of authentic details included in this book. Brockton dismisses the fictional Hollywood version of his profession ("... CSI, a show I'd watched only one incredulous time ..."), but ironically seems accepting of the fictional literary version.

Behind all the science, however, is a fairly weak and at times incredible plot. Flesh and Bone opens with two parallel, and ultimately related but not necessarily linked, investigations: the murder of a man found tied to a tree and dressed in women's clothing, and a child pornography case being worked on by Brockton's friend, Art Bohanan of the Knoxville Police Department. Add to this a third investigation when Brockton is arrested for murder. Brockton's prowess in the laboratory and on the Body Farm to discover the truth apparently doesn't extend to solving his own personal dilemma. He stumbles through the story, tripping over obvious clues, and even after unwittingly inviting the killer into his home, Brockton still doesn't get it ... until a gun is pointed at his head.

Forensic mysteries are popular, both on television and in bookstores, and despite a less than satisfactory storyline, it's likely readers will enjoy Flesh and Bone.

Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing a copy of Flesh and Bone for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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