Book Review - The Bone Thief by Jefferson Bass
For some reason, I've never read any of the Body Farm novels by the team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson (hence, the author pen name of Jefferson Bass). I'm not quite sure why, as I like the forensic anthropology genre made popular by Cornwell and Reichs. So to rectify that, I picked up the latest book in the series, The Bone Thief. I'm guessing I'll end up going back to read the earlier ones also, as The Bone Thief was enjoyable and well written.
The story revolves around Dr. Bill Brockton, the person who runs the Body Farm, a place where bodies are left to the elements in order to study the effects of nature on decomposition. He's asked by a local lawyer to look at a body that's being exhumed as part of a paternity suit. When the casket is opened, they find that someone had taken a few of the body parts before burial. Other disinterments show that the funeral home involved in these burials was also involved in the trafficking of body parts, and Brockton is reluctantly enlisted by the FBI to play a part in a sting operation to try and uncover who is buying and selling. This puts him in an extremely difficult position in terms of ethics, as he can't tell his lead assistant what is going on. She uncovers his involvement, mistaking it for actual trafficking, and submits her resignation. Unless the FBI closes the case quickly, Brockton stands to lose his reputation, his job, and possibly even his life. There is a lot of money involved in the trafficking business, and they don't really like to have their operations disrupted.
There are a couple of subplots running through the novel, both of which are continuations from the prior novel in the series. I really wish I had read that one first, as it would have helped quite a bit here. He's trying to reconcile his affair with a fellow doctor of Japanese descent, who turns out to be a killer motivated by revenge by the atomic bombs dropped during World War II. She escapes capture, and Brockton wonders what's become of her. This concern gets ratcheted up even higher when one of her hideouts is found, and it appears that she's now pregnant, very possibly carrying Brockton's baby. The other subplot involves a medical examiner who was subjected to an extremely high dose of radiation during the autopsy of the person killed by Brockton's lover. His hands were destroyed, and his only chance of regaining a normal life is a double hand replacement. But that's rarely done, and finding donors is next to impossible. Will Brockton use his place in the trafficking scheme to try and help his friend regain a normal life? What line will he cross to help a friend if the actions don't harm a living person?
I found the blend between story and ethics to be balanced and effective. Too often the author has a point he or she wants to make, and they bludgeon the reader with it. That's not the case in The Bone Thief. The only thing that kept me from completely diving into the story was the missing backstory on the characters as they interact here. If you're making your first foray into the Body Farm series, try not to do it here. You'd probably enjoy the story if you do end up here first, but I think it would be a much richer experience if the backstory is in place first.
Obtained From: Library