Bones of Betrayal

From author team Jefferson Bass, BONES OF BETRAYAL opens with the murder of Leonard Novak, one of the physicists on the Manhattan Project. This is no ordinary murder, however. After a drawn-out and unnecessarily gory description of Novak’s autopsy, we learn that he has died of gamma-radiation poisoning, which in turn has infected anyone who has been around the body.

With the narrator, his best friend, and his favorite graduate student all suffering from radiation sickness of varying degrees, and with more bodies popping up left and right, the team is desperate to find out who could be so cruel to so many… and reveals shocking truths about the history of the Manhattan Project along the way.

Sadly, the catch ends there. What was a promising premise instead devolves into an uneven, choppy and confusing story. “The team” continually gains and loses players, seemingly coming and going from thin air. Those who are continuous are generally flat — i.e. the metrosexual, Republican FBI agent with a charming smile, and the liberal, science-loving graduate student who falls for him despite their clashing ideals — and lack of character development makes each seem unpredictable and hard to understand.
It is only two-thirds of the way through this 300-page novel that the detectives — an odd assortment of FBI agents, local police and forensic anthropologists called in for reasons never quite explained — begin to make any progress in actually solving the murder, which leaves 200 pages for the authors to wax poetic about the awesome resonance of history on the modern era and the impact a small government reservation in Oak Ridge had in changing the course of the world. These philosophical musings are punctuated with details on the forensic process, often replete with overly scientific and/or disturbing factoids.
BONES OF BETRAYAL is perhaps most disappointing because of its potential. The authors are clearly extremely knowledgeable in the world of forensic science, and have done extensive amounts of research on the history of the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge and the atomic bomb processes. But rather than developing into the gripping mystery it could have become, this latest installment in the “Body Farm” series boils down to a collective of murders that seem unrelated, a cast of characters that never truly develop either individually or as a group, and a bunch of coincidences that fail to either explain or satisfy. —Kerry Serini

Buy it at Amazon.

THE DEVIL’S BONES by Jefferson Bass

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1 Comment »

Comment by Stephanie
2010-02-17 10:42:29

This is a very intriguing premise, and the history and science behind it sound fascinating. It is a shame it’s not better developed.

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