I have a keen interest in forensic science and true crime. I studied forensic anthropology for a little while in grad school (and I feel compelled to add that I did this before it was The In Thing). My interest in the subject was sparked by a book by Dr. William Maples, one of the founders of the field, called Dead Men Do Tell Tales. Dr. Bass is another of the giants in the field, although Maples’ book is more artful and creative than this one, which is somewhat formless and meandering.
I felt like I’d heard some of these stories before. Given how many books in this field I’ve read, it’s entirely possible that I have, but the similarities between Bass’ career and Maples’ are sometimes striking. Bass is a friendlier narrator than Maples (at times Maples’ ego shines forth like a pair of neon green fuzzy dice hanging from a rearview mirror) but his voice wanders, and he inexplicable gives the same explanations several times in different chapters, almost as if the chapters were written as standalone articles and later compiled, resulting in some repetition of expository information.
His discussion of his work at the so-called Body Farm (actually the Anthropological Research Facility) is actually pretty minimal. Most of the book is about his other cases. I would have liked more insight about the work they’ve done at the facility. My enjoyment of the book (which I read very quickly) was probably impeded by my familiarity with the subject matter; a lot of things that would be interesting and new to a less prepared reader were old hat to me.
It’s an interesting read but at times wearying and repetitive. I’m surprised his co-author didn’t corrall the prose a bit more. Weak, Jefferson. Weak.