Excellent book: Death’s Acre – Beyond the Body Farm

What happens to the human body after it dies? Well, after the TV program two nights ago about what happens to bodies when they are gifted to research, it’s been possible to get a visual insight into the ‘after life’. If your stomach’s not up to it or you can’t stand the smell, “Death’s Acre, Beyond the Legendary Body Farm” by Bill Bass & Jon Jefferson is an excellent read. It’s largely autobiographical in that it’s written by the man who founded the Body Farm (to whom and to which I have referred in an earlier post) and it’s an extremely insight book into the world of forensic anthropology.
Dr Bill Bass established the Body Farm in 1980 – it’s now a major research facility dealing with how the human body decomposes under different circumstances after death (locked in the boot of a car in hot weather or cold weather; how long bodies stay submerged in water; what happens if a body lies on a coin for twelve days…the possibilities are endless because the circumstances of casework are endless) – it’s the only facility of it’s kind in the world – probably because no-one else wants rotting corpses lying around in the open air. Fascinating reading and not gory at all (well, not my most forensic science book standards….).
He provides interesting case examples and hasn’t been afraid to admit where his knowledge was lacking in the early days and why, therefore, considerable research was required to bring the subject to the high level it now enjoys.
Dr Bass writes in a clear and enjoyable way – he’s one of those writers who can convey a difficult and somewhat morbid day job into a fascinating learning experience for the reader. I love reading books like this because I always come away having learnt something new – and doing that without having to read a dry text book is a plus as far as I’m concerned. Plus his story about being told off by his wife for boiling up bodies on the kitchen stove makes me feel less guilty about wrecking expensive household items during a recent research project…

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