12
Oct
12

CBR4 #36: Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass and Jon Jefferson

I have read quite a few of these books by top-notch medical examiner/forensic pathologists, and there is quite a bit of room between the best and the worst. Some are procedural, some are poorly organized, some are either too personal or too clinical, and some are just boring. Death’s Acre isn’t any of those things. It’s a really excellent, interesting, and educational book, with a little bit of everything. And it’s held together by a narrator with a wonderful, avuncular, self-deprecating voice.

Dr. Bill Bass created and oversaw the University of Tennessee’s “Body Farm,” where dead bodies are used in experiments (related to insect activity, decomposition, etc) to advance the cause of forensic science. The work done by Dr. Bass and his students has helped solve and successfully prosecute murder cases all over the world. Knowing how long it takes for a dead body to break down under a specific set of conditions can be the key to setting an innocent man free or convicting a guilty one.

The book is (ghost)written from Dr. Bass’s point of view, and he is an engaging narrator. He mixes together scientific facts and theories, history, and cases he’s worked on with his personal history and hilarious anecdotes (for example, his need to buy his wife a new blender, or how he discovered that good fences do indeed make good neighbors). He also details the struggles he had when he began the project, both from the University and from the public. It’s a great story and it’s told well. I’d highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in forensic anthropology.

As a side note, I am very seriously considering donating my body to the Body Farm should something happen to me. I think it would be a fitting end for someone so fascinated by murder mysteries!

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