The Devil’s Bones: More Devil Needed

I have 6 weeks to go in my semester, so time is getting a little tight as work shifts to final projects. My posts for the next few weeks will likely be mostly fiction since I can breeze through it pretty quickly.  I’m also behind in posting, so hopefully I can catch up this week.

I like forensic mysteries, so I thought that Jefferson Bass’ The Devil’s Bones sounded promising when I picked it up.  What I didn’t realize was that the book was actually the 3rd in a series (and I haven’t read the other two).  Enough of what I assume was in the previous books was recapped in this one so that reading the previous books was unnecessary (though I hope they were better than this one!).   

The book contains several plots, but it starts out with the main character, Dr. Bill Brockton, consulting with the police on the death of a local woman who was found burnt in her car.  Another plot strand concerns Dr. Brockton’s discovery of a seedy crematorium in Georgia.  The final plot strand involves the escape from prison of Dr. Brockton’s nemesis (from previous books) Garland Hamilton, and it is his shadow that looms over the book since you know he is going to reappear but you don’t know when or how.

“Jefferson Bass” is the pen name for two men:  Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the Body Farm in Tennessee (where researchers explore decomposition under various conditions) and journalist Jon Jefferson.  Dr. Bass’ involvement lends credibility to the science in the book much as Kathy Reichs’ experience does in hers.  The forensics are sound; unfortunately, the book is rather a mess.   It reads more like an account of a few days in the life of Bill Brockton (look at these bones here; return these bones there; maybe I have feelings for my graduate assistant; hey, let’s go visit the grandkids; crap, that murderous thug escaped from prison and I’m going to sit in my room with my gun while it rains outside) than a cohesive narrative.  It’s a shame because the forensics truly is interesting.   After reading this book, I have no interest in reading the previous books in the series.

If you like forensic mysteries, you might like:

  • Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series (who and what the show Bones is –poorly IMO–based on)
  • Jeffrey Deavers’ Lincoln Rhyme series (the film The Bone Collector was based on his book)

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