Sunday, April 4, 2010

'Flesh and Bone' Proves Even Better Than Professor's First Body Farm Book

I always think it's amazing when I discover a whole series of mystery novels that I haven't really heard of before... That happened a few weeks ago when I found UT (that's TENNESSEE, thank you very much -- not Texas!) professor Dr. Bill Bass's books about a fictional forensic anthropologist who works at the Body Farm in Knoxville. I had previously heard Bass speak when his nonfiction part-biography, part description of the Body Farm's beginning was released several years ago. So I was aware that he had written Death's Acre. Somehow his crime fiction series had slipped below my radar, though.

I bought the first three novels together, because McKay's in Nashville had them; I figured even if they weren't great, I could make my way through them since they were set in Tennessee and were mysteries. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the series was really good. Bass has teamed up with former journalist Jon Jefferson to write these books under the pen name Jefferson Bass, and the two of them must have some kind of special writing chemistry, because it really works well.

I breezed my way through their first book, Carved in Bone, in just a couple of days. I think I completed the second, Flesh and Bone, in under 24 hours. It was just that good. I couldn't put it down -- I had to know what happened to Dr. Bill Brockton and how it happened. I'm now midway through the third novel (and a little panicky, because where am I going to find the other two?). My local library has copies of both the fourth book and the fifth, which was just released at the end of March. But who knows if they'll be in when I go this week...

Carved in Bone was fantastic (and you can read all about it just below this post in my review of it), but Flesh and Bone blew me away. It was so much more in-depth. The writing duo delved deep into Dr. Bill Brockton's character, and also fleshed out (like my verbage?) his friends and family, as well. In this novel, Brockton is helping Chattanooga's medical examiner Dr. Jess Carter pin down time frame in a murder case, when a second body pops up. When Brockton becomes the focus of the police investigation, he finds himself with a lot of alone time and few people to turn to. As the police focus on the evidence against him, he works to unravel the murder of someone close to him. Not only does Brockton want to clear his name, but he also wants to bring the real killer to justice.

One reason I loved this book so much is the setting. When Jefferson Bass describes place, it is dead on. Knoxville and Chattanooga fairly jump off the page, almost becoming characters in the story themselves. I lived in Chattanooga for almost five years while attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, so it is a city near and dear to my heart. Any (good) novel set there is bound to become one of my favorites. I love this series so much I've been fairly lunging at family members, listing its virtues and promising everyone I know my copies when I'm done with them. That's how good these books are, and that's how much I want everyone I know to read them. Mystery lover or not, Dr. B will capture your attention and hold your interest. Tennessee residents and other southerners familiar with the area will relish in them, as well.

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