Bone Yard lives up to grisly title

TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER/The Book Worm

This summer stretches out before you…

And it’s already packed: reunions, ball games, barbecues, long-awaited household projects. Can’t wait.

Or not. Perhaps you’re looking at a lot of empty spaces in your calendar with little to do. The summer stretches out before you, and it feels like forever.

Dr. Bill Brockton, too, was unenthusiastic about the season ahead and the busywork that filled it. He was hoping for some gentle distraction, but in the new novel “The Bone Yard” by Jefferson Bass, the diversion stretched his definition of cruelty.

Angie St. Claire had such promise.

With a sharp eye and a knack for critical thinking, Angie was the star of the forensic investigation class that Bill Brockton taught at the U of Tennessee’s Body Farm. But when she left the class abruptly after a troubling phone call, Brockton wondered if he’d ever hear from her again. And then she called him. Angie needed help.

Told that her sister had killed herself after a night of arguing with her husband, Angie was skeptical.

Kate wasn’t depressed or suicidal – Angie was sure of it, just as she was sure that Kate’s husband was trying to get away with murder.

She needed an expert to go over what southern Georgia officials might have missed. She needed the opinion of a forensic anthropologist like Dr. Bill Brockman. And besides, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement could use Brockman’s services, too: a local dog had found an old human skull in a remote area, and authorities were eager to close an easy case.

But the skull was no ancient artifact.

It had once held the thoughts and dreams of a 12-to-14-year-old boy, and his death was relatively recent. Judging from the injuries he’d suffered, he didn’t die of natural causes, either. In fact, there was every reason to believe the child had been murdered.

And then another child’s skull was found, then a femur, and the dog and his owner were found dead. Somebody was – had been? – on a murderous rampage that apparently included torture. But why wasn’t anyone missing these children?

When the truth came out, it was almost more than a seen-it-all forensic detective could possibly handle…

When I started “The Bone Yard”, I figured I’d just read for a few minutes before bedtime. But there is no such thing as “just a few minutes” when it comes to Body Farm novels, and though the plotline is a little too convenient at times, it sure was good to see Bill Brockman again.

Authors Jon Jefferson (a novelist) and Dr. Bill Bass (founder of the University of Tennessee’s Body Farm) add plenty of authenticity to “The Bone Yard”; more, when you consider that part of it is based loosely on actual events. Despite the occasional implausibility, those details make for a sure-fire, gruesomely realistic page-turner that whodunit fans will relish.

If you’re looking for good, shivery, escapist fun for the summer ahead, “The Bone Yard” is your book. Start it soon – even though it is a little bit of a stretch.