Death’s Acre – Book Review

Publishing Date: October 27, 2003

Publishing Co.: Berkley

Pages: 320

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I vividly remember when all the CSI shows hit the scene. They were practically the only thing anyone was watching and everyone had their favorite city. People were absolutely fascinated by the science behind solving crimes. (Plenty still are, I think a few of those shows are still around.) So, I shouldn’t be surprised that this book was originally published in that same time frame. If people really wanted to learn about forensics, books can teach even more than television.

Narrowing down the very broad scope of forensics, Dr. Bill Bass is an anthropologist. He studies the bones and gleans the truth as best he can with what is left behind. Unidentified bodies are given race, sex and a rough age estimate. This can help in missing people cases and also in murder cases. Dr. Bass was consistently busy assisting police, doing research and teaching students.

But, as any good scientist, the more he learned the more questions he produced. Forensics is a fairly new science so there are certain things that just had not been studied yet. Like, how EXACTLY does a human corpse decompose? How long does it take depending on weather conditions? Do insects increase the decay rate? How can the surrounding environment help time stamp a victim’s death?

The only good way to answer these questions is to examine decaying human remains. And thus, the Body Farm was created. (It has a technical name, but Body Farm is cooler.) Using donated cadavers, Bass and his students began creating scenarios and studying the results. From those studies, sprung other studies developed by his students and forensics was pushed even further.

This is 50 percent about the Body Farm and how it came to be, and 50 percent an autobiography of Dr. Bass. My only minor complaint was the constant reminder of how the science worked, sometimes not very far apart. It did nothing to dampen my appreciation of this book. You definitely need a morbid curiosity for this one, which luckily, I have an abundance of.


4 thoughts on “Death’s Acre – Book Review

  1. Ah the Body Farm. I read about it in one of the books I was reading about dead bodies – either Stiff by Mary Roach or Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. Both recommended. I don’t know if I need a whole book about the body farm but maybe one day. Arrrr!
    x The Captain

    1. I’ve read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. LOVED it. I’ll have to check out Stiff. I read her other book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law and I enjoyed it. I understand this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and I get it lol.

  2. If you liked this book, you should check out 18 Tiny Deaths by Bruce Goldfarb. It’s about the woman who founded modern forensics in the U.S., Frances Glessner Lee. It talks about how at the time we only had county coroners and how much they suck at their jobs because they don’t know forensics. Fun fact, most counties still only have coroners. My mom and I read it together.

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