Book Review: The Bone Yard by: Jefferson Bass


William Morrow

Publish Date:
March 8, 2011



Order From: 
Amazon / Barnes & Noble

he onset of summer brings predictably steamy weather to the Body Farm, Dr. Bill Brockton's human-decomposition research facility at the University of Tennessee. But Brockton's about to get more heat than he's bargained for when Angie St. Claire, a forensic analyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, asks him to help prove that her sister's death was not suicide, but murder.

Brockton's quick consulting trip takes a long, harrowing detour when bones begin turning up amid the pines and live oaks of the Florida panhandle. Two adolescent skulls–ravaged by time and animals, but bearing the telltale signs of lethal fractures–send Brockton, Angie, and Special Agent Stu Vickery on a search for the long-lost victims. The quest leads them to the ruins of the North Florida Boys' Reformatory, a notorious juvenile detention facility that met a fiery end more than forty years ago.

Guided by the discovery of a diary kept by one of the school's young "students," Brockton's team finds a cluster of shallow graves, all of them containing the bones of boys who suffered violent deaths. The graves confirm one of the diary's grim claims: that one wrong move could land a boy in the Bone Yard. But as the investigation expands, it encounters opposition from the local sheriff, who's less than delighted to find forensic experts from the state capital and the Body Farm digging up dirt in his county.

As Brockton and his team close in on the truth, they find skeletons in some surprisingly prominent closets . . . and they learn that the ghosts of the past pose perilous consequences in the present.

Review: Mr. Bass uses forensic anthropology and engaging writing to bring to life a fictional tale of horrific tragedy. This is a fact-based fictional novel which details the lives and deaths of young boys at a reform school in Florida. The subject matter is grim and gruesome, but is told with compassion and clarity. The desires of many that the past be laid to rest and the bodies never be found are thwarted by the discovery of bones by a playful dog and a diary by Dr. Brockton and Angie St. Clair, who is dealing with her own personal tragedy during the course of the novel. While Dr. Brockton, Angie, and the others do feel emotionally attached to the case, they know that they must remain objective in order to solve the decades old child murders. Engaging, heartbreaking, and enjoyable – Mr. Bass has again weaved a gripping tale.

Please note: If you do have delicate sensibilities, then this book may not be for you. This is a book about child abuse, suicide, and murder – just a word of caution.

Body Farm Series: Carved in Bone (1), Flesh and Bone (2), The Devil's Bones (3), Bones of Betrayal (4), The Bone Thief (5), The Bone Yard (6), The Inquisitor's Key (7)


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