Forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton is back after his introduction as the hero of Carved in Bone in Jefferson Bass's thrill ride of a novel, Flesh And Bone. He contends with, among other things, helping his beautiful love interest, Chattanooga's medical examiner Jess Carter, solve the case of who killed sexual deviant and pedophile Craig Willis, while facing the formidable and vocal wrath of proponents of intelligent design, who file a law suit against him for arguing in favor of evolution in his classroom at the University of Tennessee, where he runs the world- famous research facility the Body Farm. The Body Farm is a small piece of land where people donate their, or their loved ones', corpses which are left to decay in order to gain important forensic information.
As if this wasn't enough, the good doctor also gets framed for the murder of Jess Carter after he discovers her nude body at the Body Farm tied in an obscene embrace to a man's corpse and a tree, as if they're in the act of making love. Brockton and Jess where using the man's body in an attempt to duplicate how Craig Willis died and the rate of his body's decay, to help determine Willis's time of death more precisely. Somebody out there doesn't like Dr. Brockton one bit, and wants to see him suffer the humiliation of a murder trial and to ruin his reputation.
It's up to Brockton, his lawyer Burt DeVriess (rhymes with "Grease"), the black transsexual lounge singer Miss Georgia Youngblood, and his friend on the police force, Art Bohanan, to prove his innocence and bring the real murderer to justice. Who would hate Brockton so much he would murder someone and set him up as the fall guy, even going so far as to put some of Jess's blood on Brockton's sheets, along with a pair of her panties?
There are at least three good suspects. For instance, there's Craig Willis's mother, who hit Jess Carter in Brockton's office and threatened her by saying: "You ruined my son's reputation. You will pay dearly for that." Or, possibly, the killer is the same person who left sexually explicit threatening messages on Jess's answering machine. The third suspect is Dr. Garland Hamilton, who Brockton testified against for his gross incompetence in misinterpreting the cause of death in a murder trial, almost causing the false conviction of a man. Hamilton is also the doctor who does Jess Carter's autopsy, because Brockton has been relieved of his teaching and forensic duties until he can prove his innocence.
There's a lot to like about Flesh And Bone. It's a well-thought out thriller with its share of twists and wicked, but fun, kinky twists and turns. The characters and their motivations are very realistic, and the job the collaborative writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson do describing places that actually exist in Tennessee, including the Body Farm, is outstanding and detailed. They depict the unsavory, steamy side of Tennessee with a veracity and style that is unequaled by anyone else.
Dr. Bill Bass is the forensic anthropologist who founded Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility - the Body Farm - a quarter century ago. Jon Jefferson has authored or co-authored over two hundred scientific publications, as well as being the co-author of Dr. Bass's memoir, Death's Acre. If you are looking for an above-the-rim thriller with plenty of realistic, grittiness, you can't go wrong with Flesh And Bone. You should also check out the duo's most recent Body Farm novel, The Devil's Bones - both are books that'll keep you reading until late into the night.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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