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Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab, The Body Farm, Where the Dead Do Tell Tales (includes 16 pages of B&W photos)

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Nowhere is there another lab like Dr. Bill Bass's: On a hillside in Tennessee, human bodies decompose in the open air, aided by insects, bacteria, and birds, unhindered by coffins or mausoleums. At the "Body Farm," nature takes its course, with corpses buried in shallow graves, submerged in water, concealed beneath slabs of concrete, locked in trunks of cars. As stand-ins Nowhere is there another lab like Dr. Bill Bass's: On a hillside in Tennessee, human bodies decompose in the open air, aided by insects, bacteria, and birds, unhindered by coffins or mausoleums. At the "Body Farm," nature takes its course, with corpses buried in shallow graves, submerged in water, concealed beneath slabs of concrete, locked in trunks of cars. As stand-ins for murder victims, they serve the needs of science - and the cause of justice. For thirty years, Dr. Bass's research has revolutionized the field of forensic science, particularly by pinpointing "time since death" in murder cases. In this riveting book, he investigates real cases and leads readers on an unprecedented journey behind the locked gates of the Body Farm. A master scientist and an engaging storyteller, Bass shares his most intriguing work: his revisit of the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder, fifty years after the fact; the mystery of a headless corpse whose identity astonished the police; the telltale bugs that finally sent a murderous grandfather to death row; and many more.


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Nowhere is there another lab like Dr. Bill Bass's: On a hillside in Tennessee, human bodies decompose in the open air, aided by insects, bacteria, and birds, unhindered by coffins or mausoleums. At the "Body Farm," nature takes its course, with corpses buried in shallow graves, submerged in water, concealed beneath slabs of concrete, locked in trunks of cars. As stand-ins Nowhere is there another lab like Dr. Bill Bass's: On a hillside in Tennessee, human bodies decompose in the open air, aided by insects, bacteria, and birds, unhindered by coffins or mausoleums. At the "Body Farm," nature takes its course, with corpses buried in shallow graves, submerged in water, concealed beneath slabs of concrete, locked in trunks of cars. As stand-ins for murder victims, they serve the needs of science - and the cause of justice. For thirty years, Dr. Bass's research has revolutionized the field of forensic science, particularly by pinpointing "time since death" in murder cases. In this riveting book, he investigates real cases and leads readers on an unprecedented journey behind the locked gates of the Body Farm. A master scientist and an engaging storyteller, Bass shares his most intriguing work: his revisit of the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder, fifty years after the fact; the mystery of a headless corpse whose identity astonished the police; the telltale bugs that finally sent a murderous grandfather to death row; and many more.

30 review for Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab, The Body Farm, Where the Dead Do Tell Tales (includes 16 pages of B&W photos)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    Visiting the Body Farm in Tennessee would be my idea of a good day out. A scientific research facility which treats death as an informative transition period rather than something static and final, the Body Farm has become world famous. As someone who has been routinely staring death in the face (or more accurately into the faces of hundreds of deceased, recent or otherwise), my desk is usually awash with texts and field manuals produced by William Bass and his colleagues. People often mistakenly Visiting the Body Farm in Tennessee would be my idea of a good day out. A scientific research facility which treats death as an informative transition period rather than something static and final, the Body Farm has become world famous. As someone who has been routinely staring death in the face (or more accurately into the faces of hundreds of deceased, recent or otherwise), my desk is usually awash with texts and field manuals produced by William Bass and his colleagues. People often mistakenly believe that archaeologists only deal with the driest of bones. This is not true and a number of my experiences have been remarkably similar to those of Prof Bass (bodies appearing recently buried turning out to have been in the ground for over 120 years like Colonel Shy/ body bags really not being leak proof being two examples). Deaths Acre takes you inside the body farm, providing detailed descriptions of the advances in forensic research, as well as an insight into the inspiration and relationships which led Prof Bass on his remarkable journey from army researcher to forensics lecturer and founder of the worlds most infamous research facility. I have to admit to reading this for the forensic case details rather than info on Bill's personal life but despite being a 'ghosted' volume (perhaps in the literal and literary sense) it was an informative and educational read. Some of the descriptions and images are not for the squeamish so if you're not in possession of an ironcast gut then maybe you should just stick to Patricia Cornwell novels. If you're feeling double tough and want further access to forensic material then Bass's field guide to human osteology should be your next port of call.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    As someone who has had a lifelong fascination with death, decomposition, murder, funerary and burial practices, and all manner of morbid stuff, I was eager to read Death's Acre. I had read a little about the Body Farm previously, so I couldn't wait to get the whole story from the man who started it all, Bill Bass. I expected the book to focus very narrowly on the Body Farm itself, but that isn't the case. The reader does get information about Bass's background and how he got into anthropology -- As someone who has had a lifelong fascination with death, decomposition, murder, funerary and burial practices, and all manner of morbid stuff, I was eager to read Death's Acre. I had read a little about the Body Farm previously, so I couldn't wait to get the whole story from the man who started it all, Bill Bass. I expected the book to focus very narrowly on the Body Farm itself, but that isn't the case. The reader does get information about Bass's background and how he got into anthropology -- and then forensics -- in the first place. This moves into logical background about Bass's initial work with corpses and the eventual founding of the Body Farm. I thought it was interesting that the Farm got started not only as a much-needed research facility for learning about an uncharted area of science, but it also seemed to have been started because Bass was running out of place to store messy dead bodies (a broom closet at the university and even the trunk of his beloved Mustang proved to be not the best places after all!). The book then gets into some of the difficulties the Farm has had -- protests about its location, protests about the use of unclaimed cadavers (particularly those of U.S. veterans) and some of the projects it has hosted (including an adipocere formation experiment and an experiment suggested by crime author Patricia Cornwell). But most of what comprises this book are stories about Bass's career -- his failures and successes. The failures (most notably the Shy case) point up the need for a facility like the Body Farm, and the successes point to the value of the data gathered at the site. All the workers at the Body Farm -- living and dead -- are doing a great deal to aid forensic science. In the future, justice for murder victims will be served more swiftly and accurately because of the work done at the Body Farm. Avid readers of true crime will enjoy the specialized "professional" view of cases that may already be familiar to them. I was familiar with the Madison Rutherford and Perry/Rubinstein cases, but getting the technical details from Bass (shaped for maximum readability by his capable co-author Jon Jefferson) gave the stories a new dimension. Especially fascinating was the description of the study Bass's student made of the effects of different types of saws upon bone, which helped lead to a conviction in the death of Leslie Mahaffey, one of the victims of the diabolical Paul Bernardo, the male half of the Canadian "Barbie and Ken" husband-and-wife murder team. There's also an inside look at the infamous Tri-State Crematory case from 2002. There's a lot of eye-popping detail in this book, some of it horrifying, some of it poignant, some of it -- dare I say -- hilarious. See if you can keep yourself from laughing when you find out why Bass had to buy his first wife two new kitchen stoves, or why he had to buy his third wife a new blender. Even when the tone of the book becomes humorous, Bass is always professional and respectful. Bass sees himself as a scientist, first and foremost, and his ultimate goal is to use his science to bring criminals to justice. He's humble, big-hearted, and always willing to learn from anybody -- be it a colleague, one of his own students, or the voiceless dead who speak to him with their inert, shattered bones.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Val

    What a fascinating book to read! I learned a lot (A LOT!) about what happens to the human body when a person dies. What a journey Dr. Bass had, leading up to the creation of the body farm. He shared many different cases and some were truly heart wrenching to read. He also shared anecdotes about his life, leaving me smiling and chuckling quite often. I think one of the things I admired the most was how respectful Dr. Bass was of every body he examined. I loved how he grasped any and every opportu What a fascinating book to read! I learned a lot (A LOT!) about what happens to the human body when a person dies. What a journey Dr. Bass had, leading up to the creation of the body farm. He shared many different cases and some were truly heart wrenching to read. He also shared anecdotes about his life, leaving me smiling and chuckling quite often. I think one of the things I admired the most was how respectful Dr. Bass was of every body he examined. I loved how he grasped any and every opportunity to learn - even when it included learning from one of his students! The first time I heard of a body farm was on the original CSI. Learning that one actually exists, and the long road bringing it into existence, makes for an engrossing read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (BAVR)

    I picked up this book because the Body Farm fascinates me. Seriously, I'm so taken with that place that I would consider willing my future cadaver there someday if my family approves. In Death's Acre, Dr. William M. Bass, his tale written by the vastly capable Jon Jefferson, takes us on the journey of his exciting career as a forensic anthropologist, professor, and founder of the Body Farm. There are some very graphic descriptions of human decomposition in this book, which doesn't bother me, but I picked up this book because the Body Farm fascinates me. Seriously, I'm so taken with that place that I would consider willing my future cadaver there someday if my family approves. In Death's Acre, Dr. William M. Bass, his tale written by the vastly capable Jon Jefferson, takes us on the journey of his exciting career as a forensic anthropologist, professor, and founder of the Body Farm. There are some very graphic descriptions of human decomposition in this book, which doesn't bother me, but I know some readers may want to take that into account before reading. Bass manages to remain respectful throughout all of the tough stuff, though, from outlining the case of a murdered toddler to commenting on charred human remains. That undercurrent of respect for the decedents and the work really sets this book on a pedestal for me. Because I'm hardly a science scholar, I was relieved to find that Bass and Jefferson explain the processes in layman's terms. At times, I felt like one of Dr. Bass's students, called to class to study another pile of bones. As the book went on, I got better and better at figuring out the rationale behind time of death estimates and cause of death explanations. No wonder the man is a legend in his field. I would recommend this story to anyone who has the stomach for and the interest in forensic science.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The writing could be tighter, but his wandering through his life is interesting. How he, an anthropologist developed into a pioneer in the field of forensics is interesting & funny, in rather horrible ways. (A corpse in the closet over the weekend - the poor janitor!) The development & reasoning behind the body farm is also interesting. See Mary Roache's book on corpses, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. She has a chapter on the body farm & does a wonderful job, too.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This book is based on the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility, aka "The Body Farm". The 1st facility of it's kind, The Body Farm researches the decomposition process of the human body in varied controlled settings. Results in these studies have helped federal and local law enforcement solve murders and missing persons cases. The author, who joined UofT's anthropology department in 1971 and founded the original Body Farm in 1981, injects a nice balance of humor to off-set t This book is based on the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility, aka "The Body Farm". The 1st facility of it's kind, The Body Farm researches the decomposition process of the human body in varied controlled settings. Results in these studies have helped federal and local law enforcement solve murders and missing persons cases. The author, who joined UofT's anthropology department in 1971 and founded the original Body Farm in 1981, injects a nice balance of humor to off-set the scientific language of the book. Thanks to the author explanation and the internet, I thought this book was quite easy for the layperson to understand. The author is also half of the writing duo "Jefferson Bass" who writes "The Body Farm" series. After reading this book, I am looking forward to reading The Body Farm series.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Chung

    I can’t remember if my friend Keely bought me this book or I bought it myself because she loved it so much. With that being said, I want to thank my friend Keely for making me read this book. It’s an amazing piece of non-fiction that I highly recommend reading. On the front cover of the book it says foreword by Patricia Cornwell. A relative told me in college, “if you like crime books you have to read Patricia Cornwell”. I picked up her first book of the Scarpetta series and was hooked. I was hap I can’t remember if my friend Keely bought me this book or I bought it myself because she loved it so much. With that being said, I want to thank my friend Keely for making me read this book. It’s an amazing piece of non-fiction that I highly recommend reading. On the front cover of the book it says foreword by Patricia Cornwell. A relative told me in college, “if you like crime books you have to read Patricia Cornwell”. I picked up her first book of the Scarpetta series and was hooked. I was happy to read a book that Patricia had a small hand in. I also love anything that has to do with death. I’m odd like that. So picking up this true crime non-fiction was a real treat. Dr. Bill Bass is the creator of the Body Farm, a scientifically run facility, that recreates different scenarios where a body could decompose. Through this scientific research we now can tell when a body died. Time of death is an important marker for police in murder investigations. Through the body farm, Dr. Bass and his fellow forensic anthropologists, entomologists, medical examiners, forensic dentists and other scientists and law enforcement have learned the stages of decomposition. Through decades of research, the body farm has helped to broaden and create a more accurate analysis of death. We know what to look for in order to catch that killer. This book doesn’t just talk about the body farm it also follows Bill Bass’s journey from getting a masters in counseling and taking an anthropology class just for fun, to becoming a world renowned forensic anthropologist. Death’s Acre or the body farm is where Bill Bass became famous, but it was his coming up that was the most fascinating. We get see cases that Bass worked on over the years. We get to read about his “aha!” moments, and his oops moments. With the help of some anthropology pioneers, Bill Bass and his body farm would not be possible. If you like true crime, forensics, non-fiction, mystery and death in general you’ll really enjoy this book. Those with a weak stomach be aware... there are mentions of bugs, body liquid, juicy flesh, horrendous smells and other unpleasant adjectives to describe a rotting corpse. I ate while reading this so I’m fine teehee. Check this book out. You won’t be disappointed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really enjoyed learning about the Body Farm and how it came to be. I have read Patricia Cornwell's book The Body Farm and so learning the lengths she went to for her research for a death scene in the book was great and encouraging to hear that she really cared if her books are realistic. Also learning where the techniques that are taken for granted today came from, who thought them up, and the experiments done to create these techniques. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the I really enjoyed learning about the Body Farm and how it came to be. I have read Patricia Cornwell's book The Body Farm and so learning the lengths she went to for her research for a death scene in the book was great and encouraging to hear that she really cared if her books are realistic. Also learning where the techniques that are taken for granted today came from, who thought them up, and the experiments done to create these techniques. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the behind the scenes, real life aspect of shows like CSI and Criminal Minds.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wheeler

    “Death’s Acre” is not what it claims to be: “Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales.” It’s Bill Bass’s bloated memoir, brimming with useless information, bogging down readers and serving no purpose. It’s also Bill Bass’s chance to stand up and accuse men and women, not convicted in a court of law, of being murderers. More on that later. Bass writes about all sorts of things, including a few of his cases and cases of his colleagues. He writes a little about the “Death’s Acre” is not what it claims to be: “Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales.” It’s Bill Bass’s bloated memoir, brimming with useless information, bogging down readers and serving no purpose. It’s also Bill Bass’s chance to stand up and accuse men and women, not convicted in a court of law, of being murderers. More on that later. Bass writes about all sorts of things, including a few of his cases and cases of his colleagues. He writes a little about the “body farm” and its genesis, but, not that much. He complains about journalists, the scoundrels, and then bemoans when newspapers (written by journalists) didn’t cover a murder, disappearance or found body he deemed newsworthy. A little bit of cake-and-eat-it-too going on. As much as Bass might bemoan journalists, he could have done with a journalistic editor. He jumps around, across, over, under and through time without much, if any, concrete groundings, concrete dates, concrete years to orient the reader. There is no timeline and the memoir is not ordered chronologically. Result: Confusing and bloated. Too much useless fluff opinion. Bass tries to be a philosopher, to make great, profound points at the end of his chapters. Really, life is short and brutish and no amount of sugared words will mask that fact. Guilty until proven innocent As a journalist, on the cops and courts beat, I deal with this topic on a (literally) daily basis. I err on the side of writing about all the felony arrests in my county. I also try to make sure to write about the end of the case: a guilty plea, a dismissal, a not-guilty verdict, etc. Bill Bass feels no need to throw allegedlys into his writing. Or, really, any indication that the people whom he believes to be guilty aren’t. They’re guilty, come hell or high water! And as a forensic pathologist, often writing about cases he was not even a part of, he knows best. Trust Bill, when he says someone is a murderer. It doesn’t ruin lives or reputations or anything. Take the case of the murdered 18-year-old Lisa Ranker. Bass’ protégé, Bill Rodriguez, was working on the case and detectives thought they had their suspect based on circumstantial evidence, hearsay and a polygraph test. The District Attorney didn’t want to prosecute. That’s not good enough for Bill Bass. Boyfriend Bernie Woody and Woody’s friend Danny Heath are guilty. And that’s just a fact. “With no cause of death and nothing but circumstantial evidence to suggest that Lisa might have been murdered, though, the district attorney decided not to file criminal charges against either Bernie Woody or Danny Heath.” Bass is on a first-name basis with “Danny,” whom he has accused of murdering or helping to murder Ranker. I mention his casual use of Heath’s last name because it marks a lack of respect and civility, especially for a man one openly and profusely accuses of murder in a mainstream publication. So, Rodriguez (referred to, very poorly in style terms in this book, as Bill, despite the author’s own first name) finds Ranker’s bones show evidence of stab wounds. Her death gets re-classified as a homicide. “Sadly, Lisa’s killer remains at large. Despite the skeletal proof Bill (Rodriguez) found showing that Lisa has been murdered, and despite the linger questions surrounding Bernie Woody and Danny Heath, the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney remains unwilling to prosecute the case.” Woah there! Billy proved the woman had been stabbed, probably to death! Except there’s no evidence of who did it. Bass doesn’t care. Hang ‘em high! He says. Let God adjust the scales, right? Burn ‘em! “Anthropologists and insects can reveal the truth about a crime, but they can’t force the wheels of bureaucracy to turn, they can’t guarantee that justice will be done. All they can do is serve as a voice for the victims, and hope that voice is heard.”’ Let’s be clear. A district attorney refusing to charge and attempt to prosecute a murder case for which he has no evidence is not a wheels of bureaucracy issue. It’s a: preventing other victims, falsely accused by anthropologists who are only out for blood, from being turned into victims issue. (That quote was also one of Bass’s faux-philosophical chapter endings.) And really, he’s giving voice to the dead victims, I guess, in hopes of making new, living ones. Kudos, Dr. Bill Bass. Kudos. Grade A life-ruining right there. Even as a journalist, I couldn’t have done a better job myself. And I’m accused of doing such on a monthly basis. Conclusion Mildly entertaining and bloated as the bodies he inspected, Bill Bass makes allegations of murder against unconvicted men and otherwise wastes time in this mislabeled memoir.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Update Spring 2019: The New York Times just presented a good, short news story on this: My Afterlife on the Body Farm which also links to several other sources of information. One of them is available on YouTube, from the BBC series Stephen Fry in America, episode two on the Deep South. A longer one is a 45-minute documentary (with overly dramatic audio), and a link to a television news report.                       ☠  ☠  ☠ I'd heard about this fellow's work from several directions before I ever Update Spring 2019: The New York Times just presented a good, short news story on this: My Afterlife on the Body Farm which also links to several other sources of information. One of them is available on YouTube, from the BBC series Stephen Fry in America, episode two on the Deep South. A longer one is a 45-minute documentary (with overly dramatic audio), and a link to a television news report.                       ☠️  ☠️  ☠️ I'd heard about this fellow's work from several directions before I ever picked up the book (one of my oldest friends has agreed to donate his body to this research facility), and I was frankly enamored with the idea (of the research facility, not the donation). I was actually mildly disappointed with the scale of his facility -- I had imagined it as a huge spread, out in the wilds of southern Appalachia, with various experiments scattered in the hollows and tucked away at the end of meandering paths. Sort of like a hiking area the Adamms family might enjoy. The memoir approach also surprised me, but it worked quite well, since Bass's career certainly had drama to it. But, still, the book didn't work as well as I expected. I blame the editors, since Bass must remain the hero in this story, but it is too bad he didn't get a better book out of this. Recommended, to address these flaws: Mary Roach's Stiff.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    4 Stars = Outstanding. It definitely held my interest.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Examining one of the Bass non-fiction books, the reader will discover that the world of forensic anthropology and crime scene analysis is nothing like that depicted on television, or in most crime novels. Bass seeks not only to delve into the real-world exploration of what he has been doing for the past 25 (at the time) years or so, but also to shed some light on techniques, variations, and the creation of the Body Farm, for which he has become known since its creation in 1980. Adding some perso Examining one of the Bass non-fiction books, the reader will discover that the world of forensic anthropology and crime scene analysis is nothing like that depicted on television, or in most crime novels. Bass seeks not only to delve into the real-world exploration of what he has been doing for the past 25 (at the time) years or so, but also to shed some light on techniques, variations, and the creation of the Body Farm, for which he has become known since its creation in 1980. Adding some personal stories to many of his professional (read: work) ones, Bass, enthrals the reader with true crime solving and anecdotal tales that shed a more thorough light on forensics in general and forensic anthropology in particular. It is much more than BONES or CSI could offer, and far more interesting, especially for the reader who has enjoyed Bass' complete series of fiction novels. I come into this reading experience, having devoured the entire fiction series (to date) and being a major fan. As he does in his works of fiction, Bass injects a pile of humour and a ton of teachable moments to show the reader what it is that is going on and putting it in a larger context for the layman. Additionally, many of the story lines of the fiction series are taken from Bass' experiences and people with whom he has worked. (As an aside, many of Bass' former students have gone on to have careers with 'world's foremost expert' attached to their titles). I found this highly entertaining and thoroughly captivating. While I am sure there is a research component to writing his fiction books, much can also be called life lesson and experience. I highly enjoyable book, fitting right in with the fiction collection. Fans of Bass' work will surely love this and fans of BONES, CSI, and even Patricia Cornwell (fan and friend of Dr. Bass) will also raise eyebrows and utter many a 'hmm'. Kudos Messers. Bass for this wonderful journey into the world of forensic anthropology. I cannot wait to read the other non-fiction book you two have penned.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori Summers

    I have a keen interest in forensic science and true crime. I studied forensic anthropology for a little while in grad school (and I feel compelled to add that I did this before it was The In Thing). My interest in the subject was sparked by a book by Dr. William Maples, one of the founders of the field, called Dead Men Do Tell Tales. Dr. Bass is another of the giants in the field, although Maples’ book is more artful and creative than this one, which is somewhat formless and meandering. I felt li I have a keen interest in forensic science and true crime. I studied forensic anthropology for a little while in grad school (and I feel compelled to add that I did this before it was The In Thing). My interest in the subject was sparked by a book by Dr. William Maples, one of the founders of the field, called Dead Men Do Tell Tales. Dr. Bass is another of the giants in the field, although Maples’ book is more artful and creative than this one, which is somewhat formless and meandering. I felt like I’d heard some of these stories before. Given how many books in this field I’ve read, it’s entirely possible that I have, but the similarities between Bass’ career and Maples’ are sometimes striking. Bass is a friendlier narrator than Maples (at times Maples’ ego shines forth like a pair of neon green fuzzy dice hanging from a rearview mirror) but his voice wanders, and he inexplicable gives the same explanations several times in different chapters, almost as if the chapters were written as standalone articles and later compiled, resulting in some repetition of expository information. His discussion of his work at the so-called Body Farm (actually the Anthropological Research Facility) is actually pretty minimal. Most of the book is about his other cases. I would have liked more insight about the work they’ve done at the facility. My enjoyment of the book (which I read very quickly) was probably impeded by my familiarity with the subject matter; a lot of things that would be interesting and new to a less prepared reader were old hat to me. It’s an interesting read but at times wearying and repetitive. I’m surprised his co-author didn’t corrall the prose a bit more. Weak, Jefferson. Weak.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This is a book that was ghosted, or the guy who wrote it was helped to write it by some other guy. The danger with this is that you don't know if the guy who is helping you to write your book can write. This book could have done with someone with a cringe detector reading over it first and saying to both of them - "look, no, just no". Otherwise it is a fascinating book. I loved the story of the Civil War grave and the recent body found in it. I loved most of the stories in the book and given the This is a book that was ghosted, or the guy who wrote it was helped to write it by some other guy. The danger with this is that you don't know if the guy who is helping you to write your book can write. This book could have done with someone with a cringe detector reading over it first and saying to both of them - "look, no, just no". Otherwise it is a fascinating book. I loved the story of the Civil War grave and the recent body found in it. I loved most of the stories in the book and given the fact that people seem to be obsessed with shows like CSI and such this ought to be the sort of book that people would enjoy. My main problem with this book was that there was a sense the whole way through that the people writing it were 'cashing in' - and it was hard not to get this impression as they kept referring to it all of the time - but there was no need for this. This was, in many ways, the story of the life of the guy who set up a forensic lab to test what happens to bodies when they are burnt or left out in the elements or put in water and how one can date the time of death by following these processes. There was no need for it to apologise for itself, none at all. This is a book that should have been much better than it ended up being.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Keilani Ludlow

    Wow what a book! I am so very glad that my new-ish Goodreads friend, Matt, recommended this book. Exactly what I like. I love watching the crime/forensic shows. CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, whatever. However, I get really grossed-out at the graphic visuals and some of the details into the creepy minds leaves me feeling ill. This book has all the good parts without the nasty. The author started the first body farm in America and is behind (either on his own or thru graduate students he taught) a si Wow what a book! I am so very glad that my new-ish Goodreads friend, Matt, recommended this book. Exactly what I like. I love watching the crime/forensic shows. CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, whatever. However, I get really grossed-out at the graphic visuals and some of the details into the creepy minds leaves me feeling ill. This book has all the good parts without the nasty. The author started the first body farm in America and is behind (either on his own or thru graduate students he taught) a significant percentage of the forensic methods and tests and processes used today, in addition to much of the knowledge the experts have on how to determine things like age, sex, time since death, etc. He starts just telling little stories of how he started in the field of forensic science. He continues telling his story as it leads up to how he got the idea and eventually started the body farm (and how a very popular Patricia Cornwall book came to be named after it). It's really a kind of series of small stories in (mostly) order, each one telling about how and when he got called to a death scene, what the particular twists were in the murder and in the state of the corpse, and what he did to determine what facts he could find. It's written in easy enough terms for the layman, but well enough that it's not just a story, it's interesting information. I kept grabbing my husband saying "did you know that..." over and over. Really fascinating. How to determine how long a body has been dead in multiple situations. How to determine what kind of blade cut apart a body. How to tell if someone was alive or dead, tied or restrained in any way, when their body burned. How to tell if a body had been moved. How to determine time of death by bugs. Why kidnapped children don't leave fingerprints behind. How to determine how long a body had been in the water. How to tell race without a skull. Methods of telling age when teeth aren't available. The list of things determined by either Dr. Bass or by his students is huge and amazing. Reading about how it all unfolded is fascinating!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Louise Leach

    Some very interesting information from an innovator of forensic pathology, but a little too much about the man, jovial brilliant person though he clearly is, to make this book what I was expecting. I feel I have learned plenty of (hopefully useless to me!) essential grisly dead body facts, so not bad at all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leah Clifford

    Really interesting read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I would have given this book 4 out of 5 stars, but I had one minor, nit-picky complaint. The author gives us only glimpses into his personal life, his beliefs and his childhood. We know by the end of the book that his first two wives died, leaving him lonely and depressed. Then, next thing you know, he's married to someone he knew years ago. I would have liked some tales of their courtship or maybe some more information about her. He mentions at the end that he no longer believes in an afterlife I would have given this book 4 out of 5 stars, but I had one minor, nit-picky complaint. The author gives us only glimpses into his personal life, his beliefs and his childhood. We know by the end of the book that his first two wives died, leaving him lonely and depressed. Then, next thing you know, he's married to someone he knew years ago. I would have liked some tales of their courtship or maybe some more information about her. He mentions at the end that he no longer believes in an afterlife. Throughout the book, I wondered to myself many times how he felt about what happens to us after we die and how he aligns any spiritual beliefs he may have with working day to day with the bodies of human beings and reliving the often horrendous crimes that brought those bodies to him. I am interested in how he came to his unbelief of an afterlife. That being said, I enjoyed the book immensely. A strong stomach is definitely a prerequisite for reading a book in which you discover where maggots most like to feed on rotting flesh and how a body appears in each stage of decomposition. I actually learned a lot about how the examination and analysis of bodies helps bring murderers to justice. Seems that no matter what lengths some criminals go through in order to destroy the "evidence", a brilliant scientist like Dr. Bass and his team will eventually uncover enough evidence in order to bring a guilty verdict. I felt that after reading some of the gruesome details of the crimes, the conviction of the perpetrators was a small victory and made it worthwhile. I found it quite interesting that one of the main identifiers of race and heritage is the shape of the skull and bones of the face, especially the mouth. A question that kept popping up in my mind was how that will certainly change (and probably already has, to some degree) with the advent of so many multicultural children changing the face (no pun intended) of our society. Lesson learned from this book: don't try to fake your own death with the body of a Mexican if you're a Caucasian. For those who have read the book, you know what I'm referring to. If you are interested in forensics, this book is certainly worth a read. I'm looking forward the sequel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    (3.5) Interesting, though reminds me of concerns about accuracy These forensic anthropologists (much like many coroners) become experts and then assume they can determine facts with near certainty when they can't possibly consistently. I do appreciate Bass making as much of a science out of this field as possible, so he may be among the best, but there's danger in accepting the data they return. I appreciate Bass' frankness about his mistakes. He really owns up to them, at times pokes a bit of fun (3.5) Interesting, though reminds me of concerns about accuracy These forensic anthropologists (much like many coroners) become experts and then assume they can determine facts with near certainty when they can't possibly consistently. I do appreciate Bass making as much of a science out of this field as possible, so he may be among the best, but there's danger in accepting the data they return. I appreciate Bass' frankness about his mistakes. He really owns up to them, at times pokes a bit of fun at himself. It's all the more impressive because these regularly get thrown back in his face when he testifies. It's good for his humility that he's gone through these experiences (view spoiler)[(e.g. when he mistook a Civil War casualty as a recently murder corpse) (hide spoiler)] . But just goes to show how wrong these techniques can be, and how much is up to speculation, bias, old fashioned detective work. I also had quite a problem with his approach to some of these cases. At least in retrospect, he is very clearly trying to come to the 'right' conclusion on some of the cases. It should make us all feel uneasy that he has a conclusion that he wants to come to and searches for the evidence to support. The cases he brings up appear to be iron-clad, but still, I'm sure there are far more close calls...and I'm sure the local law enforcement get all sorts of benefit of the doubt when Bass strolls in. It was good that in one case at least he told the detectives not to tell him the timeline they suspected before he was able to do his analysis. I could see great opportunity for detectives to influence results (in fact, even if they do take this precaution). There's huge risk of bias here, lots of room for defense lawyers to assail the credibility I'd think. Anyway, glad I read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This book was awesome. I have been a long time "fan" of the body farm & my first time in college my major was forensics. So I finally got around to reading it once I saw it was on my library's ebook system. SO GOOD. Dr Bass' way of storytelling is so engaging and well written that I would almost recommend it to anyone if they could stomach some of the descriptions. I found it to be an easy read, although I couldn't eat while reading it, that was my limit. Each chapter could have easily been This book was awesome. I have been a long time "fan" of the body farm & my first time in college my major was forensics. So I finally got around to reading it once I saw it was on my library's ebook system. SO GOOD. Dr Bass' way of storytelling is so engaging and well written that I would almost recommend it to anyone if they could stomach some of the descriptions. I found it to be an easy read, although I couldn't eat while reading it, that was my limit. Each chapter could have easily been read as a stand alone story since he runs through complete cases in each. He also puts in little quips and "observations" that are well placed, but also accessible. There is a sort of gallows humour people in those kinds of fields get, but it isn't accessible to the public. His sense of humour draws mostly from his own errors or his personal life, and they're very amusing. I read it while waiting on appointments, at work, before bed, basically whenever I had 5 minutes to sit still since I was so enraptured in the book. Getting to know him, the students, the cases and the people involved, the experiments, the mishaps, it was all put together so well you really felt along for the ride in the story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    patrycja polczyk

    I was very much looking forward to reading this book, as I’m fascinated with bodies and science of how they decay. I’m also an anthropologist - cultural one, but still fascinated with anything anthropological. This book is excellent and I was in love with it the moment I’ve started reading it. History of dr Bass and his creation of Body Farm is like a really great adventure for me. I give it 4 stars only because I wasn’t exactly happy with the fact, that he was repeating himself quite often, alm I was very much looking forward to reading this book, as I’m fascinated with bodies and science of how they decay. I’m also an anthropologist - cultural one, but still fascinated with anything anthropological. This book is excellent and I was in love with it the moment I’ve started reading it. History of dr Bass and his creation of Body Farm is like a really great adventure for me. I give it 4 stars only because I wasn’t exactly happy with the fact, that he was repeating himself quite often, almost as if this book was writing for people who read one chapter in a big while. Now I’ve started continuation of the book - Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murders, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science and again - I’m charmed :)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara Dee

    finally finished. I had about 20 pages left and just kept putting it off...but! I got Beyond the Bodyfarm so I felt compelled to finish this one! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot, especially from the appendices. I loved Dr Bass' punny humor. The cases were all interesting and mostly all of them we're new to me. I'm excited to see what new ones he brings in the next book. The thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was that there was a lot of repetition. Almost like each case was written finally finished. I had about 20 pages left and just kept putting it off...but! I got Beyond the Bodyfarm so I felt compelled to finish this one! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot, especially from the appendices. I loved Dr Bass' punny humor. The cases were all interesting and mostly all of them we're new to me. I'm excited to see what new ones he brings in the next book. The thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was that there was a lot of repetition. Almost like each case was written to stand on it's own, so he had to explain the basics again in each. I would have rather it just be eluded to because as the reader I am learning and retaining through out the book. evolving along with the Body Farm. highly recommended!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Loureiro

    This book is really about the career of forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass not a detailed account of the inner workings of the Body Farm as the title of the book would indicate. I found it quite well done, not overly technical, and an absolutely macabre subject presented with a good sense of humor to lighten it. Fascinating to read about the progression of forensic anthropology from the '50's to the present. "Death's Acre" is a compelling story that capably blends science, history, personal acc This book is really about the career of forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass not a detailed account of the inner workings of the Body Farm as the title of the book would indicate. I found it quite well done, not overly technical, and an absolutely macabre subject presented with a good sense of humor to lighten it. Fascinating to read about the progression of forensic anthropology from the '50's to the present. "Death's Acre" is a compelling story that capably blends science, history, personal accomplishment, poignancy and a hope for the future of the development of forensic pathology. Recommended

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    This was a truly amazing book, full of anecdotes about forensic anthropology by a man who practically invented the science. It was striking to read about advances in a modern field where all the work is original and new. The situations and crimes described are so weird and chilling that this book ought to be horrifying, but the author writes with calm sensitivity, citing the cases as clinical examples and emphasizing the truly important work done to solve these mysteries.

  25. 4 out of 5

    julianne

    I'm giving it a star as it made me sleep at 4am today when I was having a bout of insomnia.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    4.5 stars. Part true-crime anecdotes, part memoir, Death's Acre is a macabre delight if (like me) you are the sort of person who gets a twisted sort of pleasure reading about crazy murders and how forensics teams solve them. The book wasn't quite what I was expecting, because it's billed as an examination of the Body Farm, a research facility in Tennessee where experiments are preformed concerning how human bodies decay. And while the book does talk about origins of the Body Farm and discusses s 4.5 stars. Part true-crime anecdotes, part memoir, Death's Acre is a macabre delight if (like me) you are the sort of person who gets a twisted sort of pleasure reading about crazy murders and how forensics teams solve them. The book wasn't quite what I was expecting, because it's billed as an examination of the Body Farm, a research facility in Tennessee where experiments are preformed concerning how human bodies decay. And while the book does talk about origins of the Body Farm and discusses some of the more interesting experiments that they have done with donated human corpses, the book's main focus is on the life of it's author, Dr. Bill Bass, a pioneer in the field of forensic anthropology and the founder of the Body Farm itself. Dr. Bass has seen pretty much everything when it comes to human remains, and he shares some of his best murder investigation stories here with a healthy dose of biology, chemistry, and anatomy (yay!). The stories are en-gross-ing (har har har) and wildly entertaining as long as you have a strong stomach. Definitely recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hauna

    *IF* the subject matter of this book doesn’t make you squeamish, then this a must-read on forensic anthropology. It is a fascinating look into the mind and research of one of the best. I have gained an even greater respect for Dr. Bass and others like him who have dedicated their careers to the fight for justice for victims of tragedy. He tells these stories with consideration and respect for the victims and their families and a little humor to keep it light(er). Riveting. Rock Chalk, Dr. Bass!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    Really enjoyed this. A great introduction to the real world of forensic science. Death's Acre details the life and career of Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the famous Body Farm, a facility where the decomposition of dead bodies to provide data that will assist police officers and investigators in solving murders.

  29. 5 out of 5

    viquito

    "I can't give people back their loved ones. I can't restore their happiness or innocence, can't give back their lives the way they were. But I can give them the truth. Then they will be free to grieve for the dead, and then free to start living again. Truth like that can be a humbling and sacred gift for a sciencist to give."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cristina Vallejo

    What an interesting read! Definitely up my alley. Kudos to these researchers who are doing more to understand death and helping to catch murderers. I feel like I've picked up some new knowledge that would make for engaging party talk.

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