Jefferson Bass is the pseudonym for the writing team of forensic anthropologist Bill Bass who is a forensic anthropologist and journalist/filmmaker Jon Jefferson. The books draw heavily on Dr. Bass's personal experiences at the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility,
otherwise known as the Body Farm. The book is set there, and the main character, Dr. Brockton, is
its chief. This shines through in more than one way; while The Devil's Bones centers on Brockton's research in his work, it also
features several other cases, unlike the more common literary style in which the main character investigates one or at most two cases at the same time.
This is a refreshing change. The pace is also more leisurely than in many other forensics books.
The Devil's Bones starts with Dr. Brockton and his small team researching the way that bones burn in a car fire
- by putting a recently dead body and a skeleton in a car and the blowing it up
- because the police have found a woman allegedly burned in her car and asked the Body Farm to investigate.
Soon afterward, Brockton learns that Garland Hamilton, who murdered Brockton's
girlfriend and tried to kill the doctor as well, has escaped and could be after him. Understandably, Brockton is upset by this news but
continues to try to do his work. When Brockton's previous defense attorney, Burt DeVriess, asks Brockton to look into the remains of his
Aunt Jean, Brockton is happy to do so. He finds out that the supposedly cremated remains are only partially human and probably not from Aunt Jean at all.
He agrees to investigate the crematorium and makes a grisly discovery: dozens of
bodies not even buried and certainly not cremated.
At the same time, we see Brockton's life outside work: his good relationships with his son and his grandsons; his relationship with his grad student Miranda Lovelady, which might be blossoming into something more than friendship; and his easy camaraderie with the majority of the other characters. Unfortunately, Brockton's relationship with Miranda takes also an unhealthy turn. While Brockton's life outside work might contribute to a leisurely pace, they also make the books atmosphere more realistic
There are a lot of details in this forensics novel about how crematoriums work,
and some gruesome scenes (perhaps expected in a forensics novel), but Brockton has a sense of humor
that keeps the book's tone from becoming too dark. Even though many of the events in The Devil's Bones derive from the two previous books in the series,
this series entry can be read without first reading its predecessors.