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Book Snapshots: "Bones of Betrayal" by Jefferson Bass

Author Jefferson Bass is actually two people: Journalist Jon Jefferson and forensic anthropologist Bill Bass. Dr. Bass founded the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center, a.k.a. the Body Farm. Together, Bass and Jefferson have written four mysteries keyed off that facility and featuring a character named Bill Brockton, who also happens to be a forensic anthropologist. The previous books are: Bones of Betrayal is the latest book in the series, and the first that I have read. It is a contemporary murder mystery / historical fiction hybrid; at times humorous, the mystery is engaging with interesting content delivered in undemanding fiction.

In the book, Dr. Leonard Novak is found dead, frozen in the icy water of the swimming pool at his home near the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear research facility. The elderly Novak was, back in the day, a leader of the Manhattan Project, the World War II program to develop the first atomic bomb.

This is not simply a slip-and-fall at the pool, however. It turns out that Novak was killed by small but lethal chunk of radioactive material. This chunk inside Novak is so hot that it injures the team conducting Novak's autopsy. From here the mystery takes off as Bill Brockton investigates this unusual murder, trying to find the source of the radiation that killed Novak and injured his colleagues. Solving this puzzle requires him to return to the days of the Manhattan Project in Tennessee, and uncover the impact of those past events on the present day.

Oak Ridge is a real place and we know, of course, how the Manhattan Project and World War II played out. What this book adds is interesting detail about what happened in 1940s Tennessee, who were the people who worked on the Project, and what were the mores of that period. In Bones of Betray, Jefferson and Bass use the murder-mystery format to pull all of this together into a nice read.




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