Thursday, April 15, 2010

'Bones of Betrayal' Traces Oak Ridge History and the Making of the Atomic Bomb

Bones of Betrayal actually began as my least-favorite-thus-far Body Farm novel. I found it difficult to drum up interest in nuclear and radiological terrorism, which is the subject matter as the novel begins. However, that quickly changed -- so much so that Bones of Betrayal may actually be my favorite of the four books so far. It would be difficult to beat the second and third books being set partially in my former college town of Chattanooga (and its outskirts). But Jefferson Bass enters new territory in the fourth Body Farm novel -- historical territory.
Let me be the first to admit that history is not always interesting to me. I may or may not have made one of my poorest high school grades (and my only C in my entire high school career) in American History... Yes, that's sad. I love to read and to learn, but usually not things about history. Tennessee history is a bit different. I'm still never going to be a scholar in any kind of history, even of my home state. But there are bits that I find interesting, and the author team of Dr. William Bass and journalist Jon Jefferson wrote about just such a piece of history.
In Bones of Betrayal, Jefferson Bass explores the rich history behind the Tennessee city of Oak Ridge and the building of the atomic bomb during World War II. When an elderly scientist turns up dead, Dr. Bill Brockton (Dr. Bass's fictional stand-in) is on the scene. As Brockton and his colleagues investigate cause of death and work to find the murderer, they become entrenched in Oak Ridge's controversial history and relationship to the bombs dropped over Japan. Brockton begins interviewing a former Manhattan Project employee who has ties to the dead scientist, and the team of Jefferson Bass allows the elderly woman to narrate several sections of the novel in first-person voice.

Photograph of an Oak Ridge/ Manhattan Project billboard cautioning
workers to keep their work to themselves, thus furthering secrecy.

Bass includes a note at the novel's end delineating fact from fiction in the book. While the novel's main players and scenarios are fictional, Bass includes many historically accurate details of place and people.

For more reading on the history of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project, see the following resources online:

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