DEATH'S ACRE: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales

Bill Bass, Author, Jon Jefferson, Author, William M. Bass, Author , foreword by Patricia Cornwell. Putnam $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-15134-7

In this memoir, Bass, a premier forensic anthropologist, recounts how a life spent studying dead bodies led to the creation of "The Anthropolgy Research Facility" (aka the Body Farm), a plot of land near the University of Tennessee Medical Center where Bass and his colleagues monitor the decomposition of human corpses in various environments. The book is structured around the 1981 creation of the Body Farm, and the early chapters focus on some of Bass's trickier cases to demonstrate his need for more information about the science of forensics. The later chapters take a closer look at how the scientific analysis of Body Farm corpses has helped Bass and other anthropologists solve some of the toughest and most bizarre cases of their distinguished careers. Though professional and conscientious when describing the medical facts of each case, Bass, writing with journalist Jefferson, proves to be a witty storyteller with a welcome sense of humor. He also does a nice job balancing accounts of death and decomposition with decidedly not-so-morbid tidbits from his personal life. Furthermore, the poignancy of how he reacts to the deaths of his first two wives reflects the compassion he feels for the dead and their surviving family members he encounters in his working life. Bass may deal with the dead, but he has a lust for life that comes across in his writing. While the grisly details may not make this a must-read for everyone, those who do pick it up might just be pleasantly surprised by how Bass brings death to life. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/13/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-7865-5475-1
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