Dr. Bill Brockton runs 'The Body Farm', a Tennessee research facility that studies decaying corpses. Thus, he's an experienced forensic pathologist.
At the behest of Angie St. Clair, a forensic analyst from Florida, Brockton gets involved in two cases. Angie's sister died from a shotgun blast that the authorities have ruled suicide, but Angie insists her brother-in-law pulled the trigger; and bones of adolescents who attended a long-defunct Florida reform school turn up, leading to the discovery of a secret burial ground. A hidden journal is also discovered that describes the abuse and torture of the reform school inmates by the guards and authorities.
As Brockton's investigation proceeds it's clear that someone is getting antsy and threats and deaths ensue. Both cases, Angie's sister and the reform school bodies, are eventually solved rather fortuitously without much real investigation. In fact, a great deal of the book is devoted to descriptions of forensic work: finding and digging up buried corpses and how the characteristics of the bones are used to determine gender, age, and cause of death. This is interesting but it doesn't add up to the usual elements in a mystery book.
In an afterward, Jefferson Bass notes that he wrote the book to focus attention on the real issue of horrendous conditions in some Florida reform schools, and the story does this quite effectively. As a mystery, though, the book falls flat.
Rating: 3 stars