Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Bone Thief Continues the Body Farm Books

Body Farm founder Dr. Bill Bass continues his semi-autobiographical mystery series with a fifth entry, The Bone Thief. He and his writing partner Jon Jefferson form the team known as Jefferson Bass, and together they bring life to fictional forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton. Readers following the series have seen Brockton through good times and bad. Most recently Brockton lost yet another love interest when she fled after her heinous crimes were discovered. As The Bone Thief opens, Brockton is simultaneously mourning her loss and beating himself up over falling for such a flawed woman.

Jefferson Bass does an excellent job of intertwining Brockton's personal life and its developments with specific themes in each book. The series flows together through Brockton and other recurring characters (I wouldn't recommend reading the books out of order), yet each book stands alone with a particular focus. For example, the first novel in the series took a close look at small-town politics and the Smoky Mountain gensing trade. Subsequent novels have delved into real-life cases such as the Tri-State Crematorium scandal, the Scopes trial, and the making of the atomic bomb in Oak Ridge. Jefferson Bass stays true to Tennessee, describing locations in Knoxville and the surrounding area in close detail that's sure to thrill local readers.

The Bone Thief is set in Knoxville and also in Las Vegas, a trip that's a first for the series and for Brockton. The book continues story lines set in place by previous novels, most specifically the injuries sustained by medical examiner Dr. Garcia in the fourth book. As Garcia researches the possibilities that exist to rebuild his damaged hands, Brockton is approached by FBI agents to help them with an undercover sting aimed at the black market trade of organs, tissue, and bodies. Brockton hesitatingly agrees, but regrets the decision later when he becomes the target of blackmail and loses the respect of those outside the investigation.

Science of the future is the topic, as Jefferson discusses various new technologies that exist. The most amazing of these is the full hand transplant, an operation that exists but is extremely rare. Few surgeons, it seems, are expertly trained in both transplants and hand surgery. Various other technologies are examined as well, such as the formation of organs for transplant using stem cells and the process made famous by baseball's Ted Williams -- cryonics.

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