Blurb: Dr. Bill Brockton is in the middle of a nuclear-terrorism disaster drill when he receives an urgent call from the nearby town of Oak Ridge — better known as Atomic City, home of the Bomb, and the key site for the Manhattan Project during World War II. Although more than sixty years have passed, could repercussions from that dangerous time still be felt today?
With his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady, Brockton hastens to the death scene, where they find a body frozen facedown in a swimming pool behind a historic, crumbling hotel. The forensic detectives identify the victim as Dr. Leonard Novak, a renowned physicist and designer of a plutonium reactor integral to the Manhattan Project. They also discover that he didn’t drown: he died from a searing dose of radioactivity.
As that same peril threatens the medical examiner and even Miranda, Brockton enlists the help of a beautiful, enigmatic librarian to peel back the layers of Novak’s life to the secret at its core. The physicist’s house and personal life yield few clues beyond a faded roll of undeveloped film, but everything changes when Brockton chances upon Novak’s ninety-year-old ex-wife, Beatrice. Charming and utterly unreliable, she takes him on a trip back into Oak Ridge’s wartime past, deep into the shadows of the nuclear race where things were not quite as they seemed.
As Beatrice drifts between lucidity and dementia, Brockton wonders if her stories are fact or fancy, history or myth. But he knows one thing — that she holds the key to a mystery that is becoming increasingly labyrinthine. For as the radiation count steadily rises, and the race to find the truth intensifies, the old woman’s tales hint at something far darker and more complex than the forensic anthropologist himself could have ever imagined.
Review: This one was missing much of what I have found I really love in the Body Farm books. The dorky humor was there, but it sort of fell flat this time. We had almost no actual forensic work or science in this at all and it was a bit on the dull side to me.
I think the biggest problem and why so much of those things are missing is because this is more of a history on the Manhattan Project and the creation of the atomic bomb, the culture of Oak Ridge and very little else. Bill’s part and his participation in this entire story never made any logical sense to me outside of discovering the older body and working with those remains, which again, was a tiny part of the overall story. Even the revelation of the bad guys was really off in this one, with little to no science or police work really being how those bad guys got found out.
What is there is as well written as any other Body Farm book, but it is just way outside of my sphere of interest and isn’t at the level I’ve come to expect from these books. It comes very close to skirting the border of what I dislike most with many books in this genre by having Bill being and doing things well outside of his sphere of expertise and being in places and talking to people he has no reason to professionally. At least in other books, it has been made to work in ways when he may fall close to that kind of behavior to make those situations believable. It just wasn’t here.
This is by far my least favorite of the series so far and I’m hoping that this isn’t an indication of where the series is going from here.