Bill Brockton, head of the world famous Bone Farm, is participating in a terrorism safety drill when he’s called to a death in nearby Oak Ridge, the birth place of nuclear weaponry. A body lies in a motel pool, covered with a foot of green ice. Leonard Novak is frozen solid but it’s when the nuclear scientist’s body begins to defrost that things really take off.
I generally prefer encountering plot twists without too much warning, so though this occurs really early in the novel I don’t want to disclose much more of the plot. I can say that the novel compelling involves both contemporary issues and events from the build up to the end of the Second World War.
Bill is a really satisfying character – a little goofy, intelligent, self-aware and funny, I suspect he incorporates many traits that the authors possess. He (and therefore they) seamlessly incorporates details about forensic anthropology into the narrative, informing and maintaining interest while advancing the fairly intricate plot. The other characters are nuanced and rounded, particularly Bill’s grad assistant Miranda and potential love interest Isabella Morgan, an Oak Ridge librarian who bar a staggering resemblance to Bill’s murdered lover. I really like how her involvement allows Bill’s grief to progress, and how realistically this loss is portrayed.
Perhaps the most interesting character portrayal is the way details of Novak’s life are posthumously revealed, emerging like a negative in a developing bath. The stand out character, though, is Novak’s ex-wife, Beatrice. Now ninety, the former Oak Ridge employee is quirky, interesting, an unreliable but charming narrator who, either directly or through information she imparts, is the source of most of the plot twists. In many ways I hope to be like her at that age – selectively senile, lively, determined, winsome and intelligent to the end.
Bones of Betrayal is the fourth fictional collaboration of forensic anthropologist Bill Bass and journalist/writer Jon Jefferson. There’s no sign of complacency or writing for the sake or either deadline or profit – the writing is crisp and compelling, the plot original and absorbing, and the characters shine. The next Bill Brockton novel will be on my Must Read list. - Alex
The Bill Brockton series:
Carved in Bone
Flesh and Bone
The Devil’s Bones
Bones of Betrayal
The Bone Yard
The Bone Thief