The Bone Thief: Body Farm, Book 5

The Bone ThiefAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: The Bone Thief
Series: Body Farm
Order: #5
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  Dr. Bill Brockton has been called in on a seemingly routine case, to exhume a body and obtain a bone sample for a DNA paternity test. But when the coffin is opened, Brockton and his colleagues, including his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady, are stunned to see that the corpse has been horribly violated.

Brockton’s initial shock gives way to astonishment as he uncovers a flourishing and lucrative black market in body parts. At the center of this ghoulish empire is a daring and prosperous grave robber. Soon Brockton finds himself drawn into the dangerous enterprise when the FBI recruits him to bring down the postmortem chop shop–using corpses from the Body Farm as bait in an undercover sting operation.

As Brockton struggles to play the unscrupulous role the FBI asks of him, his friend and colleague medical examiner Eddie Garcia faces a devastating injury that could end his career. Exposed to a near-lethal dose of radioactivity, Dr. Garcia has lost most of his right hand and his entire left hand. Out of options, he embarks on a desperate quest: both of his ravaged hands will be severed at the wrist and replaced with those from a cadaver. But unless suitable ones are found soon, the opportunity will be lost.

As Brockton delves deep into the clandestine trade, he is faced with an agonizing choice: Is he willing to risk an FBI investigation–and his own principles–to help his friend? Will he be able to live with himself if he crosses that line? Will he be able to live with himself if he doesn’t? And as the criminal case and the medical crisis converge, a pair of simpler questions arise: Will Dr. Garcia survive–and will Brockton?

Review:  Not really sure what the difference is, but I’m not loving these books as much as I did when I first started the series.  There is still a lot to like, but there is also a lot that I’ve started having to sort of skim through.

I do love to learn something new when I read a book, but this book, like the last one, seems more like an academic text rather than a fiction novel in a lot of places.  It is one thing to have some specifics included when addressing a new topic, but I don’t need pages and pages of it.  I also don’t need those same pages and pages when it is something you’ve gone over in previous books.  At that point, it is no longer about learning some new fact, but either learning an entire new professional field or taking a full on refresher course with each book.  There is such a thing as overkill.

The parts that are interesting, the science and investigative aspects are even seeming to push the boundaries for me as some of the scenarios are really not all that believable for Bill’s character.  Sure, they may be possible, but really one man is truly only capable of being excellent at so many things.  You can’t be that good or that in demand in every single aspect.

I do still like these, just not as much and I’ll be less likely to grab the next book unless I don’t have much else to draw my interest.

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Bones of Betrayal: Body Farm, Book 4

Bones of BetrayalAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Bones of Betrayal
Series: Body Farm
Order: #4
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars


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.

The Devil’s Bones: Body Farm, Book 3

The Devil's BonesAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: The Devil’s Bones
Series: Body Farm
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



Blurb:  A burned car sits on a Tennessee hilltop, a woman’s lifeless, charred body seated inside. Forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton’s job is to discover the truth hidden in the fire-desecrated corpse. Was the woman’s death accidental . . . or was she incinerated to cover up her murder?

But his research into the effect of flame on flesh and bone is about to collide with reality like a lit match meeting spilled gasoline. The arrival of a mysterious package–a set of suspiciously unnatural cremated remains–is pulling Brockton toward a nightmare too inhuman to imagine. And an old nemesis is waiting in the shadows to put him to the ultimate test, one that could reduce Brockton’s life to smoldering ruins.

Review:  As book three in this series, this is just as great as the first two.  I have to say after reading all of these so far, I’m absolutely loving the series.  I love the characters that are developing along the way as well.

Bill’s character comes across as this truly genuine guy that is imperfect but still tries to be a decent human being.  All of the supporting characters that seem to be constant, Miranda and Art are much the same.  The humor that gets tossed around amongst them is very much on the corny side, but it is kind of a charming sort of corny that I actually like.  I think it tends to emphasize a bit of the dorky side, especially with Bill’s character, and helps the reader get a strong feel for who he is outside of just his professional expertise.

For this book, I was glad to see a resolution to the Hamilton plot that has spanned the first three books.  It has been excellently written and handled and by resolving it now, it didn’t become a burden to the series, but it got enough time and attention to give it weight and importance. My one teeny, tiny complaint is that there was a somewhat big event in the last book (Bill getting sued by a student), that didn’t get addressed or resolved in that book that I expected to see in this one, but didn’t.  Either I missed it, or it just got glossed over, but it wasn’t mentioned at all so I was a little surprised because it isn’t clear how that got worked out.

Overall, though, another wonderful addition to the series.

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Flesh and Bone: Body Farm, Book 2

Flesh and BoneAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Flesh and Bone
Series: Body Farm
Order: #2
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



Blurb:  Anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton founded Tennessee’s world-famous Body Farm–a small piece of land where corpses are left to decay in order to gain important forensic information. Now, in the wake of a shocking crime in nearby Chattanooga, he’s called upon by Jess Carter–the rising star of the state’s medical examiners–to help her unravel a murderous puzzle. But after re-creating the death scene at the Body Farm, Brockton discovers his career, reputation, and life are in dire jeopardy when a second, unexplained corpse appears in the grisly setting.

Accused of a horrific crime–transformed overnight from a respected professor to a hated and feared pariah–Bill Brockton will need every ounce of his formidable forensic skills to escape the ingeniously woven net that’s tightening around him . . . and to prove the seemingly impossible: his own innocence.

Review:  It has been hard for me to find a crime drama genre book that I truly like, even though I do love the genre, let alone one that impressed me.  This one did.   Simply because all the things that all those other books do wrong and drive me crazy, this one managed to do right.

The main character, Bill, while incredibly educated and intelligent isn’t the one to do all the work in this to solve the crime.  His character does stick mainly to his expertise and lets others that have their own expertise come in and do their jobs.  The police aren’t idiots.  They may not be perfect and they may not always get it right, but they also don’t always need someone else to do their jobs for them.  On a whole, the situations that go on in this book are so much more realistic and believable than what you so often see in others in this same genre.

Having read the first book in the series, I really kind of knew just from reading the blurb where this would end.  In a way.  I had no clue the path it would take to get there, though, and that kind of hit me in the gut because I really didn’t expect that at all.

I was seriously impressed by the emotional impact of this story.  For me that is kind of huge as I don’t often see a male author get that aspect of a story to ring true enough for me to connect with it.  That is one of the bigger reasons I tend to stay away from male authors, so to be able to get the emotions to resonate as they did in this book is surprising and will definitely keep me coming back to this series as it continues.

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Carved In Bone: Body Farm, Book 1

Carved In BoneAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Carved In Bone
Series: Body Farm
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  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.

Review:  Knowing that this is written by an expert forensic anthropologist, it would be easy to assume it would lean towards a dry, technical read.  It came as a bit of a surprise to find that wasn’t the case.  You absolutely get some of the technical and scientific side of things, but that is beautifully balanced with humor, emotion and a genuinely well written story.

The very beginning of the book gave a very clear indication of how this book was going to go when you are immediately exposed to a somewhat gruesome and icky scenario juxtaposed against wry humor.  It isn’t often that I get to laugh while a guy is driving a knife into someone, but that is exactly what you get here.

Brockton’s character is this incredibly accomplished and respected professional.  We get this odd blend because that professionalism is offset with this imperfect, wacky, kind of scaredy cat, geeky personality that provides some lighter humor in the middle of some of the serious.  His friend Art and his student Miranda are much the same and are a big part of why this keeps from being too much about just the science.

This has to be one of the better crime dramas that I’ve read in a while and I will absolutely be reading the next one in this series.