Archive for Forensic science

Death’s Acre by William Bass and Jon Jefferson

Posted in Lisa, Non-Fiction with tags , on September 9, 2008 by Lisa

Cross posted at Books. Lists. Life.

Death’s Acre by William Bass and Jon Jefferson

Did you ever read Patricia Cornwell’s The Body Farm? Watch Forensic Files? Bones? Death’s Acre is the non-fiction version of that. Subtitled “Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales ,” this book is about the Body Farm (as you may have guessed by now.) The Body Farm is in Knoxville, TN and is a research facility dedicated to death. The brainchild of Dr. Bass, anthropologists there study every conceivable aspect of death to determine how and when a person died.

The book is a series of chapters about various case studies beginning in 1981 with the opening of the Farm. It tells in great detail about what a person can learn from a dead body and what can and can’t be hidden. For example, it’s hard to burn a body, if a body rests on a coin, the coin will be imprinted on the corpse, maggots appear almost immediately, and the soil under a body will show traces of the body’s decomposition. Both fascinating and a little bit gross, the book held my interest and I flew through it. My only complaint is that at times it was painfully obvious that Dr. Bass was in charge of the writing as it would veer into weirdly self-congratulatory talk. I was unable to read their first fiction novel for the same reason- the writing style- so if the writing bugs you this might not be for you. Otherwise, if you’re at all interesting in the forensic sciences, you should pick it up. This book would be a nice companion to Stiff by Mary Roach as well.