Jefferson Bass

(co writers Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson)

FORENSIC MYSTERIES, DR. BILL BROCKTON. Full disclosure, I am content to watch reruns of CSI Las Vegas and Bones for mindless hours at a time, so not surprisingly I find the gruff slightly awkward central character of these books, Dr. Bill Brockton to be very winning for a guy who spends his days watching over decomposing bodies. Brockton is loosely based on the professional life of one of the coauthors of the series, Dr. Bill Bass. In 1971 he founded what is popularly known as ‘The Body Farm” a four acre site that is part of the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center located in Knoxville. If you are interested you can view several videos of the farm on the Jefferson Bass website. A warning for the squeamish — blow flies crawl over the open eyes of the dead, maggots hatch in ears, skin takes on the look of tanned leather, decomposition gasses swell (and explode) bellies – it is fairly gruesome. Dr. Bass appears in both videos, looking like a kindly, small town grandfather with a pocket full of peppermints. But as we mystery readers know, appearances can be deceiving. The doctor introduces a portable Experimental Ground Radar System by saying, “We have a problem in the United States of the husband and wife, one of them gets mad, kills the other one, they take them out in the backyard and bury them. Then they pour a concrete slab over them. And it’s hard to find.” If you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail; and if you’re a forensics scientist it seems your neighbor’s new patio looks like a crime scene.

The Body Farm was well known to law enforcement by 1994 when Patricia Cornwall made it famous to the world at large in her best selling book of the same name. Sometime later Dr. Bass began his own forensic mystery series with co-writer Jon Jefferson, a freelance writer who first collaborated with Dr. Bass on a non fiction book and then in 2006 on the first book in their Body Farm Novels series. Most of the puzzles Dr. Bill Brockton solves are set in and around Knoxville, and Eastern Tennessee, though occasionally he goes farther afield, and there even is one trip to France. The books have terrific, straight forward appeal, especially, though not only, for forensics fans. As is often the case in books like this, Dr. Brockton’s romantic relationships are blah to ‘oh dear’ but that being noted, for me forensics rule.

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