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The Bone Thief by Jefferson Bass (Review #3)

The Bone ThiefReviewed by Allen Hott

Whoa! What a book! But a bit of a warning in advance. This book is about dead bodies and the study of them as they begin to break down after death and interment. And there is one section wherein Doctor Bill Brockton and his aide perform an autopsy, which is spelled out in graphic detail. There are one or two other instances of happenings that are perhaps not for the squeamish.

But for most of us? A really great book as Brockton goes about his business of running the Body Farm in Knoxville Tennessee where donated bodies are evaluated in the study of decomposition. Knowing facts about how the decomposition of the dead body is a big help to law enforcement as they piece together when, where, and how someone died.

One of East Tennessee’s most notable television personalities has recently died and stipulated that her body go to Brockton and the Body Farm. That piece of notoriety helped get more folks looking to what all can be done on the Farm.

The court had called upon Brockton and his crew to do DNA exam on a gentleman who had been dead for some time. This gentleman was buried in a normal cemetery so the body/casket had to be dug up for the examination.

When Brockton began to do the examination one of the hands of the dead man fell off as the body was moved. Upon moving the body further another hand fell off. Brockton quickly ascertained that the arms had been removed from the corpse and the coat sleeves filled with PVC pipe to give the illusion of arms!

From that beginning Jefferson Bass has built a tremendous tale that twists and turns from start to finish. Bodies that have been buried for years are found upon examination to be missing parts or in several instances entire bodies are missing from buried caskets.

As the authorities delve into the mystery, Brockton is called upon by the FBI to get very involved with the suspected evildoers. This involvement causes him much stress and strain. Especially since prior to this event Brockton had been very involved with a librarian, who after killing a man, vanished and is still being hunted by the FBI.

All of this has caused Brockton to lose contact with his son who can’t understand his father’s recent actions. It also causes Brockton to almost lose his most valuable assistant for the same reasons.

Interwoven into all of this action is the possible double hand transplant to one of Brockton’s closest friends. Transplants of parts of the human body play an interesting sidelight to the overall story.

A really great book that holds the reader’s attention even if it causes a bit of squeamishness now and then.


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