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Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murders, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science

81 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060875299
ISBN-10: 0060875291
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forensic anthropologist Bass nicely complements his memoir, Death's Acre, with this unnervingly cheerful collection (ably co-written by science journalist Jefferson) of case studies and anecdotes from the field of corpse identification. With careful attention to detail and the occasional darkly humorous aside, the authors describe charred maggot cocoons; the grotesquely dismembered victims of a fireworks factory explosion; and the forensic uses of sonar, scanning electron microscopes and computer databases. Disparaging the CSI effect on jurors who expect DNA testing to be quick and exact,Bass extols the virtues of old-fashioned legwork and gut reactions, though he's always quick to admit when his methods and intuition fall short. The authors keep the narrative flow moving nicely, and Bass's voice is practical, passionate and eminently Southern—and his decades of teaching experience at the University of Tennessee come through strongly in such helpful suggestions as If you decide to murder somebody, don't think that you can completely cover your tracks with fire. Strong-stomached readers who like to get dirt under their nails will gladly follow the UT forensic anthropology team up mountains and into rivers as they put names and faces to long-decayed bodies. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Sept. 4)
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“There’s much to enjoy here...” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Readers who like to get dirt under their nails will gladly follow the UT forensic anthropology team.” (Publishers Weekly)

“scientifically authoritative, as well as accessible to mainstream crime buffs...Some cases are heartbreaking; at least one is downright weird.” (BookPage)

“The real crimes and mysteries here are just as or more intriguing as any fictional crime drama.” (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

“Beyond the Body Farm offers a real-life understanding of forensic anthropology and the science behind it...” (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060875291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060875299
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #766,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Beyond the Body Farm is a collection of vignettes from the wide-ranging experience of forensic anthropologist Bill Bass. He and co-writer Jon Jefferson intrigue readers with stories illustrating the many ways forensic science has helped bring criminals to justice. At the same time, they provide a basic education in anatomy and physiology for the layperson.

I appreciated how Dr. Bass was able to share true-crime stories without indulging in shock tactics. Although murders, almost by definition, can be gruesome, Bass dwelt on the science of his investigation, rather than on gory details.

I also liked the way the majority of the stories stood on their own. It was easy to get through an entire chapter whenever I had a few minutes to spare.

One feature of his writing I found unappealing, however, was his habit of starting one story, introducing another one in which the investigative process was similar, then winding his way back to the original story. I found this circuitous path distracting; rarely did it enhance the main story for me.

Overall, however, Beyond the Body Farm was a good read, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's curious about the constantly advancing field of forensic anthropology.

Armchair Interviews says: If you are a "forensic junkie"--watching all those shows on TV, this book would give you added insights.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
With two body farm novels (see FLESH AND BONE and CARVED IN BONE) and an account of his forensic anthropological work (see DEATH'S ACRE), Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson provide a sort of autobiographical account of the former's work in Kansas and more so in Tennessee where he created the first "living" forensic research lab. Dr. Bass gives credit to his instructor five decades ago Dr. Krogman, known as the "Bone Detective" who got him interested in the unnamed at that time field of forensic anthropology. He also credits Patricia Cornwell with her novel THE BODY FARM for making him famous and his type of work acceptable amidst the public; without Ms. Cornwell there is no CSI on TV. However, the fascinating segments of the book are the cases over the last fifty years that run the gamut from the Big Bopper to the wrongly identified corpse to a fireworks factory explosion to ancient Persia to solving modern day cases for local police departments. It is these cases and how he and his team solved them by shaking and tossing of the bones that makes for a fine CSI read with Harry Houdini appearing as a star performer in a future exhumation.

Harriet Klausner
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on September 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Bill Bass is, without a doubt, the most famous and prestigious forensic anthropologist in the United States, if not the world. He is the creator of the famous Body Farm at the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus and he has consulted on thousands of cases throughout his long career.

This book is a group of cases that he found to be of particular interest and range from researching ancient bones in the Middle East to digging up the remains of the Big Bopper. The book contains about 15 such stories, each roughly a chapter long and each discusses various unusual aspects of forensic anthropology. It is well written and has a touch of dark humor added.

If you like crime shows and forensic shows, you will love this book. It contains just enough science to make it interesting to those with a science background, but not so much as to overwhelm the average reader.
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Format: Paperback
Being a criminal justice student with a focus on the forensic sciences, I found this book to be not only fascinating but very informative. Dr. Bass and Mr. Jefferson have managed to write a non-fiction book that reads like a fiction novel and still manages to inform and teach. I am as thrilled with this book as I am with the three fiction novels that they have written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Samantha L. Sayre VINE VOICE on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good and interesting book. However, if you are a follower of the series that Jefferson Bass writes then this isn't part of it. This is a real life book not fiction. It details different cases that Bill Bass was a part of. It even goes back to his time at the Kansas University before the Body Farm. I found the chapter on the "Big Bopper's Death" to be fascinating. He exhumed his body to find out if he could have survived the crash and walked to a fence or if he was shot. The chapter on sonar that looks for drowned bodies was also interesting. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in forensics or anyone that follows their series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Dr. William M. Bass is one of the world's most renowned forensic anthropologists, and expert in the study of what happens to the human body after death. He was made famous by his novels ("Carved in Bone" and "Flesh and Bone") and by his memoirs ("Death's Acre: Inside the Body Farm, the legendary forensic lab"). In this fascinating book, Dr. Bass looks back on some of his more interesting cases - everything from examining ancient skeletons at an archaeological dig in Iran, through identifying a person by looking at a disembodied skull, watching bugs, what happens to people who were caught in a fatal explosion, and so much more. (Including such interesting things as what he found when he examined the body of Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson.)

This is a fascinating and very entertaining book. You would think that a book about dead bodies would be creepy, or perhaps dull and academic, but this book is anything but! The authors do an excellent job of presenting Dr. Bass's cases in an interesting manner, teaching you about forensic anthropology at the same time that it entertains you with fascinating events and witty dialog. I loved this book and don't hesitate to recommend it to everyone!
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