Identity Crisis: The Murder, the Mystery, and the Missing DNA by Jefferson Bass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bill Bass, half of the writing team of Jefferson Bass, is the narrator of this nonfiction book. Bill Bass was the head of the anthropology department at the University of Tennessee, and the man who started the Body Farm. He has over fifty years of experience in forensic anthropology. With his writing partner Jon Jefferson, they write crime fiction novels in which anthropology is used to help solve crimes. It's commonly called the Body Farm series, and the protagonist, Bill Brockton, is based on Bill Bass. The first book in that series is called Carved in Bone. This book is not part of that series, though I'm sure Jon Jefferson assisted in writing this one as well.
This book is a nonfiction account of a puzzling case that Dr. Bass actually worked on. In 2005, he was asked to help make a clear identification of a woman who had been buried in a family plot since the day she was murdered in 1978, a time when DNA had not even been invented. They know who killed the woman, and the perpetrator has been punished, so that's not the mystery in this book. It is her identity they are unsure of. Dr. Bass excavates the bones, not once, but twice, and through a series of complicated tests and other efforts, may be able to put to rest the real identify of the woman in the grave.
I enjoyed this book because it was real. It wasn't just a fictional expert trying to solve a mystery. The book takes the reader through many different methods of identification explained in a way that a layperson can understand. We just assume that you run a test for DNA and you're done, thanks to shows like Law and Order and CSI. That's not the way it works. And a result is not always the end of a case. Who knew so much could go wrong?
View all my reviews