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Review: Manhattan Project is muse for Jefferson Bass' 'Bones of Betrayal'

“We had an autopsy take an unexpected turn."

University of Tennessee forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton has just watched a colleague discover a tiny item in a body's ruined gut.

Within minutes, the colleague, Eddie Garcia, is admitted to the emergency room with the frightening symptoms of radiation sickness.

Bones of Betrayal takes the reader back more than 60 years to the Manhattan Project, when the city of Oak Ridge, Tenn., was built and tens of thousands of people worked for one purpose: to create an atomic weapon. For mystery and history lovers, this novel provides a healthy dose of both.

This is the latest in the Bone Farm series, written under the pseudonym Jefferson Bass by Jon Jefferson and forensic anthropologist Bill Bass, founder of UT's Bone Farm, where students and scientists study the effects of decomposition. The earlier books are Carved in Bone, Flesh and Bone and The Devil's Bones.

The victim, dead from a slow dose of radiation, is physicist Leonard Novak, a fictional character who has helped create the bomb. When decades-old negatives are discovered in his freezer, the mystery of his puzzling death deepens, and Brockton goes on the hunt for another body.

At the physicist's funeral, Brockton meets Novak's colorful ex-wife, Beatrice. She enjoys telling tales from her days as a calutron operator, when she became involved with her husband, and other men, during Oak Ridge's heady times. While researching clues in the rich and secretive history of "Atomic City," Brockton meets a librarian who has secrets of her own.

When the skeleton of a murdered World War II soldier and another body surface, characters begin to reveal their secrets in rapid succession. It all comes together at the end, with a few too many coincidences, but after an interesting history lesson woven with suspense and espionage.

Kathleen Lang can be reached at or (727) 893-8713.

Bones of Betrayal

By Jefferson Bass

William Morrow, 352 pages, $24.99

Review: Manhattan Project is muse for Jefferson Bass' 'Bones of Betrayal' 05/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 15, 2009 2:35pm]
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