Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book Review: Bones of Betrayal

Title: Bones of Betrayal: A Body Farm Novel
Author: Jefferson Bass
Rating: *****
Tags: mystery, series, body farm, forensic anthropology, bill brockton

This is the best book yet in an excellent series. Co-written by Bill Bass, a forensic anthropologist in charge of the Body Farm, the University of Tennessee facility that investigates body decomposition, and the main character, Bill Brockton, is the same. How much of Bill Brockton is Bill Bass I don't know, but I suspect a lot, and that adds to how real the character of Brockton feels. He is a marvelous character, a scientist who is a rational, mature man, with a great deal of empathy.

In this book, Brockton is asked to investigate the death of a man who was one of the Manhattan Project scientists in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It turns out that the scientist was killed by a pellet of a radioactive substance, and before that is understood the medical examiner, Brockton, his research assistant Miranda, and a police man are exposed. The ME is the most endangered.

The threads of the story lead back to the founding of Oak Ridge. It deals with the personalities that created mankind's most terrible weapon, and all the ethical and spiritual dilemmas inherent to that enterprise, poignantly expressed by Robert Oppenheimer's quoting Hindu scripture after the atomic bomb test. He said, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Bill becomes fascinated with an elderly woman who was briefly married to the scientist. He also is strongly drawn to a younger woman librarian who helps him uncover the past.

The biggest thing I like about this series is the lack of machismo. I get so tired of books where the main character is a wise ass who doesn't know how to co-operate with anyone else, because that wouldn't be manly. Jefferson Bass's books have none of that. The characters are reasonable people, though they are humans with all the dilemmas and complexities that real people have.

Excellent book, excellent series.

Publication William Morrow (2009), Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0061284742 / 9780061284748

No comments: